Letter: Taking officials to task over contamination

October 30, 2018

This letter was sent to Gov. John Carney, Sussex County Council, Sussex County state representatives and senators with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.                           

It is estimated that 86 to 92 percent of our water in the State of Delaware is polluted.  Our well water in Sussex County is contaminated with high levels of nitrates and other toxins.  These are known to cause birth defects, cancers and other health conditions, especially if ingested over a long period of time.  Delaware’s cancer rate is second highest in the nation.  I have already heard the argument made by some elected officials in Sussex that the cancer rate is high because “Maybe the retirees moving in have brought it with them.”  This is bogus and has no validity.  If this argument were true, other states with a higher number of retirees (Florida, Arizona, etc.) should then have a higher cancer rate, which they do not.

These water issues have existed for many, many years and have occurred under your watch.  You and all incumbents are culpable because you have ignored and not confronted the problem, thereby causing a lack of regulation and enforcement. This has now placed in jeopardy our physical health and possibly economic health due to potential loss of real estate values.

The adjacent states of Maryland and Virginia are enforcing their environmental guidelines and Delaware is not.  Why is that?  As a result of this lack of enforcement, large ag/poultry corporations (Mountaire, Allen Harim, Perdue) have moved operations here and expanded their facilities in Sussex County. This expansion has added to the toxins in our water and air.  Toxic chicken waste containing nitrates is being added to our already contaminated aquifers as a result of spray field waste disposal.   Past history and performance should indicate to you that ‘self-monitoring’ by these corporations is not working and should not be an option.

 Sussex and state officials are quick to point out that agriculture/poultry create jobs and millions of dollars in revenue.  However, you need to be reminded that Sussex County is also heavily dependent upon revenues from both tourism and residential development (transfer taxes, impact fees, etc.), yet you allow and encourage these mega ag/poultry industries to exist, expand and spray their contaminated waste on our fields in residential growth areas.  This does not make any environmental or economic sense and represents very poor planning and zoning on your part. Additionally, when you calculate the revenue from these corporate farms and poultry companies, please also factor into your calculations and equations what this revenue is costing in terms of human life and health that is destroyed by cancer, birth defects, blue baby syndrome, etc. as a result of contaminated water.  

As an elected official you have a responsibility to educate yourself to protect those you govern by investigating other more advanced waste disposal technologies, which do exist.  Perhaps investigating other states that have successfully solved these problems may be of value?   It is far better to learn from and examine the mistakes of others rather than make those mistakes here.  In today’s world, if you stand still by perpetuating old ideas, you will not correct problematic issues. Water and air are essential elements of life. and I expect and demand that you, my elected official, protect them (no matter who was here first, the chickens or the residents).  No one is entitled to pollute essential elements of life, air and water, especially a corporate entity. I will no longer tolerate the status quo. If you do not publicly announce your priority to enforce regulations to protect our water and air quality, I will be voting for the candidate that does, regardless of party affiliation, and I would urge others to do the same.  Your responsibility is to protect every citizen of Delaware and Sussex County, and not only corporate interests. Also, HB 270 is not sufficient since it penalizes the individual citizen, who did not cause the contamination, rather than the corporations that cause the contamination. You must do a better job or find another career choice.

Tom DiOrio

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