Legislators speak out on Allen Harim

October 24, 2017

Misconceptions continue to circulate regarding many aspects of the agreement between Allen Harim and Artesian Wastewater Management to use treated wastewater to grow crops in an area northwest of Milton.

We are neither advocating for this proposal, nor opposing it. The legislative branch is not involved in any aspect of the decision-making on this project. However, given the active misrepresentation of the facts by some parties connected to this situation, we believe there is value in accurately framing the current circumstances.

Artesian has already secured contractual agreements and the state permits needed to allow the application of treated wastewater to 1,300 acres of privately owned land as part of its planned Northern Sussex Regional Water Recharge Facility. An additional 300 acres will serve as a buffer zone with surrounding homeowners.

The company also has approval from state environmental officials to build a treatment plant and storage impoundments at the site. The state permit previously issued for this project is valid through Oct. 14, 2018.

The company is currently seeking approval from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to amend this permit, chiefly making changes to the lagoon configuration. Under the request, the number of lagoons would be changed from three to two, but the overall volume of the holding areas would remain the same.

The permit changes also include new proposals for crop planting and rotation at the site designed to ensure that nitrogen and phosphorous in the treated water are being used by the plantings and not migrating to streams or groundwater.

The permit modification request is presently being reviewed by DNREC. A Sussex County conditional-use permit for the site is active and current.

Allen Harim will process and treat the water at its treatment facility, subjecting it to a three-tier procedure that will clean it to a standard suitable for use in parks and other areas people frequent. Artesian has operated a similar system in Middletown for 15 years where water treated to the same standard is applied to a golf course, athletic fields and farm crops.

Residents of the surrounding communities have been understandably anxious about the proposed plan, which some have exploited to serve their own political purposes.

One activist group has circulated emails to residents living in the area falsely claiming they invited elected officials to a meeting they staged to discuss the project. When we predictably missed the event that had been kept secret from us, they claimed we didn't care about residents' concerns.

This type of deception is a transparent ploy intended to galvanize support for the group, while driving a wedge between local residents and their elected officials. Tactics that capitalize on fear and spread fabrications have no place in public discourse.

Let us be clear. None of the lawmakers representing the area have any role in DNREC's environmental permitting procedures. We have no authority over the internal process of an executive branch agency, and we hold no sway on Secretary Shawn Garvin's decision.

Should this project move forward, we believe DNREC, Artesian, and Allen Harim have an obligation to inform residents, answer their questions, and comply with all existing laws and regulations. We pledge to work with all concerned parties to ensure that this happens.

State Representatives Harvey Kenton and Steve Smyk
State Senators Ernesto Lopez, Brian Pettyjohn and Gary Simpson

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