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Edgemoor and surrounding areas raise environmental, health concerns from Port of Wilmington expansion

Delaware Public Media

Residents and community groups in and around Edgemoor are pushing back on the Port of Wilmington expansion.

The state announced the $635 million public-private partnership project in May – the new facility in Edgemoor will quadruple the port’s capacity for container cargo and handle newer and larger ships.

But environmental concerns like air and water pollution have been top of mind for local residents in Edgemoor and surrounding areas for years.

“Trucks idling in the morning when kids are going to school," says executive committee member for the Delaware Community Benefits Agreement Coalition Jeffrey Richardson. "They’re resting there waiting to go to the port and pick up or whatever. In fact, that should just not be happening, so the air quality issues are significant.”

Richardson adds just the construction of the new port risks water quality when contaminated soil is disturbed.

“But underneath the river, in the soil, there is dioxin, and mercury, and PCB’s, et cetera," Richardson says. "They are talking about moving 3.3 million cubic yards of earth, to dredge it, to make it deeper so they can bring in these much bigger cargo ships. They are talking about quadrupling their capacity with this expansion.”

Richardson says the coalition is fighting for a community benefits agreement, but have faced consistent resistance from the state regarding public participation around the health and environmental impacts.

Enstructure Regional President Bayard Hogan emphasizes the jobs aspect of the project – but also notes stakeholders are evaluating ways to make the port “greener.”

“Where we want to use technology and electrify or hybrid as much as the equipment, LED lights, things like that, being very thoughtful about our carbon footprint.”

Hogan says the Diamond State Port Corporation is planning a community engagement meeting for late July.

The state made Enstructure port operator last year, replacing Gulftainer, which ran the port for nearly five years but failed to meet job and expansion promises.

Richardson says the coalition has pushed for transparency in the port's operation since before Gultainer, and they fear that conducting business in the same "closed door" fashion will result in another failure.

Richardson also notes that Black, Brown, and working communities are disproportionately experiencing the consequences of pollution in the area, and that those communities should not have to choose between clean air and water or good jobs.

The coalitions efforts have been a case study for the Environmental Protection Agency, outlining "how one community group is working to empower and organize local residents to secure local environmental protections as part of a planned expansion project at the Port of Wilmington."

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.
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