'Straight-up wrong': Elected officials and advocates oppose New Castle landfill expansion
A New Castle-area landfill says it will soon fill up if it cannot expand. But that plan faces opposition from advocates and elected officials.
Waste Management’s Delaware Recyclable Products, Inc. (DRPI) landfill between Rt. 13 and and I-495 sits just hundreds of feet from the nearest residences in West Minquadale.
Waste Management spokesman John Hambrose says at the current rate, the landfill could be full in about a year. So the company is seeking a permit modification to grow from its current maximum height of 130 feet above sea level to 190 feet.
“Depending on how busy we are, it could extend the life of the landfill anywhere from 10 to 20 years,” said Hambrose.
Under the modified permit, there would be no change to the landfill’s footprint or the maximum daily volume of 2,400 tons.
The site has been operating as a landfill since the 1980s, and owned by Waste Management for more than two decades. According to officials, the DRPI landfill accepts construction and demolition waste from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.
Penny Dryden is the statewide director of the grassroots Delaware Environmental Justice Community Partnerships, which includes the Minority Workforce Development Coalition, Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice (DCR4EJ), the NAACP State Health Committee and the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club. Dryden recently represented these organizations to oppose the landfill expansion at a public hearing hosted by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).
She says she has concerns about noise, sight lines and air quality. “That’s no benefit to the community,” she said. “I think that the community has carried the burden long enough, and enough is enough.”
Dryden also points to what she calls “cumulative impacts” of industry in the area. “[Residents are] already dealing with Croda, the Port of Wilmington and the Diamond Chemical plant,” she said. “It’s too much to keep adding and adding. So I think it should stop.”
Waste Management officials say the landfill has control measures for dust, litter and odors, along with groundwater monitoring.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer is among several elected officials opposing the expansion — because of the landfill's proximity to homes. He calls the proposal "straight-up wrong."
“I’m absolutely opposed to enabling dumpers to increase the height of their dumping ground, particularly when that waste is coming from neighboring states from outside our county, and particularly when the dumping ground is right basically smack in the middle of a residential area,” he said.
Meyer also frames the issue as one of environmental justice. “There’s no reason in 2019 for a dumping ground to be there unless the people around there don’t have the political power to fight it,” he said. “It’s my job as County Executive to find those who don’t always have the political power, the voice to protect themselves, and to stand up and say this is wrong.”
New Castle County Councilman Jea Street Sr. also opposes the expansion. He has introduced county legislation that would stop landfills capped at 140 feet or less from expanding above that limit.
State Rep. Frank Cooke, who represents the area where the DRPI landfill is located, said in a recent statement he is against the proposed expansion. “Debris and dirt from this facility routinely blows into the community and onto the grounds of the County Public Safety building next door,” he wrote. “I am very concerned about the impact any expansion would have on the community, the nearby Christina River and Churchman’s Marsh and the thousands of walkers and cyclists who use the Markell Trail that runs along the edge of this property.”
The Minquadale Civic Association has expressed support for the landfill expansion, through a letter included in Waste Management’s permit modification application.
The Association’s support is contingent on the finalization of a ‘neighboring community agreement’ being drafted with Waste Management, president David Trincia wrote in the letter. Trincia expects the agreement to yield “short- and long-term social and economic benefits” to the Association and the residents it represents. The draft agreement also provides the Association with a mechanism for voicing health and safety concerns and having them responded to quickly by the DRPI team, according to the letter.
Hambrose of Waste Management says the company supports the local volunteer fire company and provides the Minquadale Civic Association with free construction waste disposal.
Councilman Jea Street has petitioned DNREC to investigate whether any agreements or payments between the Minquadale Civic Association and Waste Management violate laws or policies.
Public comment on the DRPI permit modification application is open through June 28.