Contaminated soil at Wil King Station

September 1, 2023

In 2021, the developer for Wil King Station near Lewes went through the Preliminary Land Use Service process. PLUS is an opportunity for state agencies to comment on the condition of the land. The parcel was found to have contaminated soil, as noted in the DNREC comments in the PLUS report. Eventually, the developer withdrew the application. The developer of Wil King Station submitted a new application, and a hearing was set for July 27. On July 25, a report from the developer’s paid experts, Watershed Eco, was attached to the file, hardly enough time for the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission or the public to review. This report stated the contamination was cleaned up. The contamination that was found on this 29-acre parcel, which had a portion of the land owned by three generations of one family, and was used as a dump site for car parts, household appliances and household goods for decades. The developer knew about the parcel being used as a dump site from the previous PLUS report, and had contractors cleaning it with heavy equipment from June through a week before the hearing. At the hearing, a resident asked for the report and was handed a copy. After the hearing, he reviewed it and contacted me, stating that the levels of lead, arsenic and antimony were higher than the acceptable level.

I immediately contacted the Environmental Protection Agency and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. A DNREC remediation expert and her superiors reviewed the report and found the levels of some contaminants where higher than what is acceptable. DNREC then reached out the developer of Wil King Station, as well as Sussex P&Z Director Jamie Whitehouse, and suggested the developer work with DNREC to remedy the contaminated soil. However, since DNREC got the information after the public hearing closed, DNREC’s comments were not considered, and the development was approved without knowledge of the toxic chemicals in the soil. 

It is important for the public who are professionals in many different fields, and whose testimony is valuable to the commission, to get involved and review these applications and catch things that the commission or planners don’t have a chance to review with a day’s notice. Without catching this on the Wil King Station application, we would have a playground, homes, lawns and walking trails built on a contaminated site. 

I have been assured by P&Z that there are red flag alerts for Wil King Station when the plot plan is entered for final approval by the commission, and it must pass a DNREC final approval. I also asked Sussex County Council President Mike Vincent and council members to change the application process so a developer must have all paperwork submitted 30 days before a hearing.  This gives adequate time for the public and the commission to review. Also, as a resident, you have a right to ask for conditions of approval for a development during the P&Z hearing. 

Janet Le Digabel


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