Citizens’ group opposes poultry plant near Millsboro

POIR expresses concerns about pollution from new poultry farms

Members of Protecting Our Indian River (POIR) attended a meeting in Bethany Beach last week to raise concerns about the proposal to turn the former Vlasic Pickle plant into a poultry processing operation owned by Allen Harim Foods, a Korea-based poultry company.

“We have too much to lose,” stated Ken Haynes, Millsboro resident and member of POIR. “The proposed poultry operation will not only harm an ecologically sensitive area, but it has huge ramifications for the surrounding communities, including Bethany Beach. Vacationers won’t vacation in a place that smells of chicken manure and has polluted water.”

The group was informed at a June 17 meeting in Millsboro by Allen Harim that the poultry processing operation would lead to 100 new factory poultry farms within 50 miles of the new plant, which POIR says will negatively impact the Indian River, diminish the quality of lives to those residents living in Delaware’s rural areas and potentially harm the local economy in Bethany Beach.

Millsboro residents had sent in more than 200 comments in opposition of the Allen Harim Foods’ application to the Sussex County Board of Adjustment last week.

According to POIR, originally, Allen Harim claimed 350,000 birds would be processed per week, but now the number has jumped to 2 million. In addition to their opposition to the application, the residents said they believe that proper public notice was not provided to the people living near the old Vlasic Pickle plant.

“This whole process has happened behind closed doors and out of the eyes of the public,” said Bruce Ballantine, another member of POIR. “That’s a real problem, when money from the public is being used on the Brownsfield site. These guys can’t have it both ways — you can’t use the public’s money and then not inform them.”

The site for the proposed poultry operation is a Brownsfield and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that means that the site is contaminated with a hazardous substance. The EPA’s Brownsfield program provides public dollars to redevelop the site for industrial use, which also raises concerns for the residents.

“We have multiple Superfund sites here, an unsolved cancer cluster, and now we find out the old pickle plant site is contaminated with chromium and other carcinogens. The folks who live here do not want any more pollution added to our community,” said Ballantine.

POIR members said they would like to see steps taken to clean up the unresolved contaminates on the site instead of transitioning the site into new industrial production. The group, they said, believes that the local governments should be investing in ecologically responsible farming instead of industries that they said have a track record of fouling the water, contaminating the air and devastating the quality of lives of those living in close proximity.

POIR is a group of 300 residents whose mission is “to invest in our natural environment and the health of our communities.”