Mistakes made today may take decades to repair
Advocates for clean water are not anti-agriculture, anti-family farm or anti-poultry; they want one thing: clean water. A recent letter to the editor (March 29) from Katherine Holtz of the Delaware Farm Bureau would have you believe that clean water advocates and opponents of recent activities of Allen Harim and Mountaire are against local family farmers and the interests of Delaware itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We used to pump leaded fuel into our gas tanks and cover our walls with lead paint. We learned of the serious health effects of lead in the atmosphere and the damage to young children from ingesting the sweet paint chips, and we made changes to our laws and practices. Asbestos was everywhere in older homes and industrial sites. We learned how dangerous it is and changed our practices and spent a small fortune on remediation. Smoking cigarettes was once touted as a healthful activity. The list of former practices and substances that were once accepted as the norm, but that we now look upon as outrageous and outdated could go on.
When we learn of an activity that is dangerous and damaging to our environment, we should not simply shrug our shoulders and say that the practice must continue simply because it's been done that way for a long time. In Sussex County, we all get our water from wells, whether municipal, community or a single home well. We all, whether our families have lived here for generations or we have moved here recently, need clean, potable water.
When we learn that the geology of the Eastern Shore is particularly susceptible to nitrate contamination of the aquifers, the concerns aren't just those of new residents who just "do not appreciate the economic benefit Delaware agriculture affords them."
We are concerned for ourselves and for Sussex County's children and elderly populations, the economically and socially disadvantaged who are less able to advocate for themselves.
The Farm Bureau would have you believe that this is just a bunch of noise from some outsiders who don't understand Sussex County.
First, the advocates for clean water consist of long-term, lifelong residents of Sussex County as well as more recent residents. There is no difference in our need for clean water based on how long we have lived here.
Yes, many new residents in Sussex County come here to retire for a variety of reasons. Transfer taxes paid when they buy property here are a tremendous financial plus for the county, adding perhaps $1 billion. The building industry depends on the construction of new homes and commercial establishments to serve the communities. Tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry in Sussex. What would happen to the economy of this area if, because of a lack of environmental stewardship and clean water, retirees stopped relocating here? If tourists stopped coming to our beach towns because they learn how poorly we care for our environment? If people learn that they can come here, but cannot drink the water?
The Farm Bureau's statement that Allen Harim is the perfect environmental community partner would be laughable if it weren't so absurd. This is Allen Harim, the company that was cited for over 90 wastewater violations (for which it has just been fined over $200,000, a fine it has chosen to appeal) and which was cited by OSHA for multiple employment-related violations in 2015.
Allen Harim has fouled Beaverdam Creek in Harbeson and wants to send wastewater eight miles up to Milton fields, adjacent to already overburdened and contaminated spray fields. It should not be permitted to further contaminate our environment. Our elected officials and public servants at DNREC must take action to protect us and our water. The mistakes made today may take decades to repair.