Two Sussex County men have been charged with illegally dumping trash at two Sussex County sites, but it's unclear whether the piling refuse has had any adverse impacts on the environment or public health.
“I'm hoping because [the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control] has been on site, should they have seen any material that would have posed a hazard, they would have said something,” said Michael Costello, government affairs manager for Sussex County.
DNREC spokesman Michael Globetti declined to comment on possible hazardous waste at an illegal dumpsite on a 19-acre parcel off Beaver Dam Road in Frankford. He said a second site in Dagsboro already has been cleaned up.
“It's not a DNREC issue at this time,” he said. “The 19 acres still exists as a dump site. You need to find out from the county about cleanup.”
Costello said county officials are working with the property owner to set a timeline for securing the site so more dumping does not occur and cleaning up what’s there. DNREC is the agency in charge of identifying potential hazardous waste, Costello said, and as far as he knows, no hazardous waste determination has been made.
“We don't have anybody on staff that can identify what's hazardous,” Costello said. “That's their bailiwick.”
In late March, officers with DNREC's Natural Resources Police Environmental Crimes Unit filed charges against 44-year-old Danny L. Averitt of Frankford for charging local residents and businesses to dispose of trash on a 19-acre property at 34084 Kennel Road. He was charged with operating a solid waste facility without a permit and given a future court date, a DNREC press release stated.
Sussex County's online tax map tool shows the Frankford property is not owned by Averitt, who was staying on the property and running an illegal dump, according to court records. George Baldwin Jr. and Harold W. T. Purnell II co-trustees are listed as owners, and the parcel is zoned agricultural-residential, county records show.
Officers also charged Dagsboro resident Perry A. Townsend, 55, with illegally dumping trash at the Frankford site and another site near Dagsboro. Townsend pleaded guilty to two counts of discharging solid waste and to one count of transporting, collecting and storing solid waste without a permit. He was fined $1,900, placed on probation and ordered to clean the site west of Dagsboro, according to the press release.
Court records show Townsend was arrested March 24 and fined $1,350 plus court costs, while Averitt was arrested March 30 and released on $150 bail.
Records show Averitt told police he had been charging people, including Townsend and landscaping businesses, $10 to $75 to dump waste at the Frankford site on Kennel Road, just off Beaver Dam Road, for about four years.
Globetti said Townsend has already cleaned up the Dagsboro site, which court records show was near the intersection of Swamp Road and Blueberry Lane. He declined to comment on Averitt's case.
“Averitt has not had his day in court, so information is very limited,” Globetti said. Averitt's preliminary hearing is set Monday, April 24, in Sussex County Court of Common Pleas.
“This is going to be one of those long-term events,” Costello said. He said he knew nothing of hazardous waste or environmental violations at either site beyond information included in DNREC's press release and website.
Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett said he's still waiting to hear from DNREC regarding what they're doing – and what they've done – to address illegal dumping in Sussex County. In mid-March, Arlett joined state and local officials to tour illegal dumping sites throughout Sussex – nine places piled with debris, including an illegal dump on a 19-acre parcel, but he could not confirm it was the same one used by Averitt and Townsend.
“We, meaning county council, have reached over to DNREC and requested them to come before the council to provide an update and a status of all the cases that they're working on,” Arlett said. “As a county, we should know. We need to know.”
Arlett said it's been a couple weeks since he officially requested data on illegal dumping and prosecutions, but he has not yet heard back. He said someone with the Sussex County Constable's Office is expected to provide similar data at a council meeting in late April or early May.
Chief County Constable Ryan Stuart deferred comment to county spokesman Chip Guy.
“From a staff or county standpoint, we're obviously concerned with any time there is a flagrant violation of the law and people not abiding by certain societal standard,” Guy said. “We take this very seriously.”
Guy said DNREC is in charge of the investigation and arrests, but the county is working with property owners to get sites cleaned up and in compliance with county ordinances.
“This has been out there for way too long, and now it's time to come together to resolve these issues and work as a community to stop it,” Arlett said. “In the end, it's inexcusable and intolerable for anybody to be doing this and, therefore, we have to take it upon ourselves as a community, and with the agencies involved, to hold them accountable.”