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Environmental advocate responds to proposed slag grinding facility

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
View of part of the proposed Walan site from Christina Ave.

An clean air advocate has some concerns about the slag grinding facility proposed for near the Port of Wilmington.


Walan Specialty Construction Products hopes to build a slag grinding facility near the Port of Wilmington which would produce a powdered cement additive.

Russell Zerbo of the Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that advocates for public health, says the proposed facility would bring New Castle County close to failing federal standards for PM2.5, or fine particulate matter.

“If another company comes in [later] that is a third of [Walan’s] proposed size, it would likely go above the standard that’s already not in attainment.”

He says the County is currently a “maintenance” region for PM2.5, which is harmful to respiratory and cardiovascular health.

The County is already in non-attainment for the 2015 8-hour ozone standard— a problem Zerbo says the proposed facility would contribute to.

According to Walan, the proposed facility is expected to emit nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which contribute to ground-level ozone. It is also expected to emit sulfur oxides carbon monoxide, along with the various sizes of particulate matter.

Zerbo is also concerned about the location of the proposed operation.  It sits along the Christina River, beside I-495 and just outside of the protected Coastal Zone. However, the area of the Coastal Zone the site is adjacent to is one of the fourteen areas of Delaware’s protected Coastal Zone where heavy industry is grandfathered in.

Zerbo calls the nearby Southbridge neighborhood an “environmental justice area.”

“It’s easy to imagine that they should get some extra Coastal Zone protections. Because it’s been well documented how easily that area floods. And then you’re combining that with a history of industrial contamination,” he said.

Zerbo has submitted a comment to DNREC requesting the 501 Christina Ave. site be included in the Coastal Zone and entitled to its protections.

Walan’s environmental consultant, Rick Beringer of Duffield Associates, counters that the proposed operation would be classified as “manufacturing” rather than heavy industry, and would still be allowed if it were within a protected Coastal Zone.

Beringer says activity on the site would not contribute to flooding in the nearby neighborhood. “This site has absolutely nothing to do with the flooding that occurs at Southbridge."

But he says areas near the site are subject to tidal flooding.

NOAA modelling of the area around 501 Christina Ave. in an intermediate sea level rise scenario in the year 2050.

"There are areas of the Port, there are areas along Christina Ave., there are areas along A st. that flood currently during a high spring tide,” said Beringer. “They’re just inundated by high tide. They’re that low.”


Flooding in the are will likely worsen as sea levels rise.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) modelling shows that by 2050, in an intermediate sea level rise scenario, the site of the proposed operation could be surrounded on several sides by shallow water or low-lying areas.


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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