Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will continue to accept public comment on two controversial waste material permit requests until Thursday, May 3.
Two April 11 public hearings in Milton drew public comments from a crowd that was universally opposed to the permit requests.
Contractors Clark Environmental Services and Denali Water Solutions have applied to haul sludge and wastewater from the former Vlasic pickle plant in Millsboro to Allen Harim’s chicken processing plant in Harbeson. Allen Harim submitted plans with Sussex County Board of Adjustment to use the former Vlasic plant as both its corporate headquarters and as a deboning facility, but the board tabled the application until Monday, May 7, when all board members are expected to be in attendance.
Allen Harim has filed for a special-use exception to convert 50,000 square feet of a 453,000-square-foot building at the former Vlasic plant into a deboning operation. Another 20,000 square feet of the facility would become the company's corporate headquarters.
Under the proposal, processed chicken would be trucked from Allen Harim's Harbeson plant to Millsboro for deboning, packaging and shipping. The plant would process about 2 million pounds of chicken per week, operating with one shift.
Milford resident Keith Steck was one of many who opposed transporting sludge or wastewater at the April 11 hearing. He said DNREC had no choice but to keep the public record open, because the hearing started late and ended about 10 minutes early. Steck said the hour the public had to comment on each permit had short changed everyone who came to comment.
Hearing officer Robert Haynes told the crowd he wanted to hear comments on the permits, which allow the two firms to haul nonhazardous waste.
However, DNREC provided no introduction and the hearing included no summary of the purpose of the permits. No representatives from Allen Harim, Clark or Denali presented information and no one answered questions.
“People went there expecting to get information but didn’t get any from DNREC. If they went away with anything it was a bad taste in their mouth, feeling let down and angry. They also walked away with even more questions,” Steck said.
In addition, he said, it was premature for DNREC to hold the hearings in the first place because the deboning operation has not yet been approved. DNREC officials declined to comment other than to announce the record would remain open.
“I’ve never been to a hearing when the purpose of the hearing was not explained,” Steck said. “It’s crazy. It’s bizarre; there’s no other word for it.”