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DRPI landfill has been exceeding air emissions limits for over a year

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Two flares attempt to mitigate air emissions from the Delaware Recyclable Products, Inc. landfill along Route 13 near New Castle

A controversial landfill in New Castle County has been violating air emissions limits for more than a year, according to state environmental regulators.  

The Delaware Recyclable Products, Inc. (DRPI) landfill in the Minquadale area along Route 13 has exceeded hourly sulfur oxides emissions limits since last fall, according to a Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Notice of Violations released to the public Tuesday. 

Some residential neighbors have complainedof respiratory problems they say are caused by the landfill, which is currently seeking a permit modification to expand vertically from a maximum of 130 feet above sea level to 190 feet.

DRPI area Gas Operations Manager Adam DeRobbio notified DNREC of hourly sulfur oxides limit exceedances in May 2019. According to the Notice of Violations (NOV) sent to DRPI late last month,  DNREC then discovered that the hourly permit limit had been exceeded each month since October 2018.

The landfill’s 12-month rolling total of sulfur oxides emissions had exceeded both the “corrective action control” threshold of 80 tons and its permit limit of 87 tons by August 2019. The landfill had also exceeded the 100-ton “major source” threshold for 12-month sulfur oxides emissions by September 2019. 

The agency says the landfill has not corrected exceedances of the hourly and rolling 12-month sulfur oxides limits. The NOV says a September letter from a DRPI official indicated the landfill does not expect to correct the exceedances for the foreseeable future.


John Hambrose, spokesperson for DRPI operator Waste Management, blames the excess emissions on last year’s weather. 

“What happened at DRPI last year and continues to happen this year with the increasing gas and the hydrogen sulfide and the exceedance, it’s similar to what’s been seen at landfills all across this region that experienced higher than normal rainfall last year,” he said. 

Landfill operators attribute the increase in emissions to the reaction of rainwater with wasted drywall. According to the NOV, DRPI also identified the more than doubling of their daily average tonnage of waste over the last year as a potential reason for the increase in emissions. 

Hambrose says the landfill will likely continue exceeding sulfur oxides limits until a new filter system is installed on its two flares— a step the landfill plans to take early next year. “Our plan, which we’re working on with DNREC, is it install a system that will filter out the hydrogen sulfide before it reaches the flares,” he said.

Hambrose says hydrogen sulfide is part of the “landfill gas” which comes off the decomposing trash. It is burned in the flares, resulting in the emission of sulfur oxides. 

DNREC is requiring the landfill to submit an application to build an “appropriate control device” by Dec. 2. 

DNREC spokesperson Michael Globetti said in an email that the department cannot comment further with regard to “ongoing Department action.”

The landfill’s bid to expand could be curtailed by a County ordinancesigned in August that limits landfill height to 140 feet above sea level. The landfill is challengingthat limit in court. 

Globetti says DNREC can take no further action on the landfill’s current permit modification application because it is “inconsistent with local land use.” Hambrose says DRPI plans to amend the application to reflect the County ordinance. 

New Castle County officials, community leaders, environmentalists and Artesian Water advocated this spring and summer against DRPI’s proposed expansion and for the County’s landfill height limit. Environmental arguments largely centered around claims about the landfill’s potential threat to groundwater, rather than air quality.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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