Wil King Station environmental report will be considered

Developer and environmental officials disagree on level of contamination at site
September 1, 2023

A Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control report on possible contaminates on a section of the 29-acre parcel for the 58-lot Wil King Station subdivision will be part of the final site-plan review by the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission.

The issue has become a confusing matter. The developer's attorney says remediation of the site has taken place and no contaminates have been found.

DNREC officials say a June soil test showed elevated levels of arsenic and antimony.

The commission approved the preliminary site plan for the project at its Aug. 24 meeting.

Since that vote, property owner Janet Le Digabel has flooded this newspaper and county planning & zoning staff with her concerns about contamination. A section of the parcel was used as a dumping site dating back to the 1920s and 1930s.

She spoke during Sussex County Council's Aug. 29 public comment period, saying there has been known contamination on the parcel dating back to the first application filed in 2021.

“With the developer submitting an environmental report one-and-a-half days before the hearing, there was no chance to review,” she said.

Councilman John Rieley addressed the matter following her comments. He wanted to know the procedure for reviewing pertinent information after a public hearing has been closed.

“Information relating to the environmental condition of the property has been reviewed by DNREC and will be part of the preliminary and final site-plan process, and the stipulations relating to approval,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. “We will take the information from DNREC relating to the final site plan to make sure it complies. That is the case in any land-use application if there are issues discovered during site work. If there is remediation because of a discovered content, it will happen.”

Rieley wanted to make it clear that the issue of possible contamination will be addressed.

“Yes,” replied Lawson.

“I request that you change code right now that developers must have all paperwork in within 30 days of the hearing date so the public, commission and staff can review it,” Le Digabel said.

Developer says site cleaned up

During public hearing testimony, the developer’s attorney David Hutt said the parcel had been used as a dump site many years ago. A first soil test found traces of antimony, used as a hardener in lead for batteries. Hutt said the applicant cleaned up the debris on the site and removed the polluted soil.

A second test found more traces, so more soil was removed. A recent soil test found no antimony. “This cleanup benefits everyone who lives in the area,” Hutt said.

However, in an email from Steph Gordon, a DNREC environmental scientist with the remediation section, to county officials and Le Digabel, she said that soil samples collected this past June revealed elevated levels of arsenic and antimony, which exceed levels in the Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act.

Gordon said the information was relayed to county officials, including a recommendation that the developer conduct an additional investigation and take possible remedial action.

“As development spreads more west, we are going to find more of these dumping grounds,” Rieley said.


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