Allen Harim has announced it will stop discharging treated wastewater into Beaverdam Creek and instead spray treated effluent on farmland north of Milton.
An agreement with Artesian Wastewater Management Inc. allows 18 months for construction of a pipeline to move treated wastewater and stormwater from Allen Harim's poultry processing plant in Harbeson to Artesian's Northern Sussex Water Recycling Facility, Allen Harim officials announced Jan. 27.
“We've been discussing this idea with Artesian for nearly nine months, and we are pleased to be able to move forward with this plan,” Allen Harim President and CEO Joe Moran said in a press release. “Our goal all along has been to reduce our impact to Beaverdam Creek, and this solution eliminates it altogether.”
The announcement comes about two months after the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control cited the plant with dozens of violations for exceeding permit limits on its wastewater discharges to Beaverdam Creek, a tributary of the Broadkill River and Delaware Bay.
The state environmental agency found dozens of violations in 2012-13 and 2015-16, highlighting discharges that included excess amounts of ammonia, enterococcus bacteria, phosphorous, total suspended solids and nitrogen at two of the plant's four permitted outfalls. Some violations were as recent as October 2016.
Moran said in a phone interview Jan. 30 that the plant is back in line with permit requirements.
“We had a couple blips that created higher levels than what's permitted,” Moran said, admitting there were operational and management issues at the time of the violations. “We haven't had any issues since.”
Nearby neighbors, who have criticized the plant's environmental impact in recent years, applauded the company's decision to the pipe from the creek by mid-2018.
“Oh my God, wow. Wow!” said nearby resident Jeanette Wagner when she heard the news. “I think it's great.”
Beaverdam Creek runs through Wagner's backyard on Route 5, just off Route 9. Wagner said she was beginning to worry about the downstream impact of more than 1 million gallons per day of treated wastewater flooding the creek – and her yard.
“When there is a lot of water, it overflows right into our yard,” she said. “I would think this would be much better.”
The shift in plans also means a change to the planned expansion and upgrades at the plant's wastewater treatment facility. DNREC granted the company a “change in scope” to previously approved upgrade plans, allowing Allen Harim to nix construction of a planned water reuse plant, additional wastewater treatment units and a filtration unit. Instead, Artesian now will manage the disposal of all wastewater generated by the plant, according to a company press release.
DNREC's approval of the new plans also allows $5 million of state-issued loans to cover a one-time impact fee to Artesian. In 2015, the state issued two low-interest, state-funded loans totaling more than $11 million so Allen Harim could expand and upgrade its wastewater treatment plant. That was the first time the state Water Infrastructure Advisory Council recommended approval of loans from the state's Clean Water State Revolving Fund to a private company.
“The $5 million was set aside for phase 2, but as we've been looking at things, what better way to be 100 percent recyclable than to get out of the stream?” Moran said. “We went back to DNREC, and they asked for a change of scope, and agreed it was the best environmental choice and best use of funds.”
Moran said the second phase of upgrades at the plant's wastewater treatment facility is no longer needed because of the agreement with Artesian; all phase 1 upgrades, including a new pump station and other equipment upgrades, have been completed, thanks in part to the state loans, and will continue to be used, he said.
“We will do our normal treatment,” he said. “What we'll send to Artesian is basically what we'd be sending to the stream.”
Artesian is expected to invest $17 million in needed infrastructure improvements and pipeline construction, the press release states.