O’Mara approves Pinnacle Way remediation plan

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) Secretary Collin O’Mara on Dec. 24 issued a Secretary’s Order approving the final plan of remedial action for the Pinnacle Way site near Millsboro, formerly a Vlasic Pickle plant and a designated Brownfields site — one where redevelopment can be complicated by potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

“The Department’s approval of the Plan as a final Plan will allow the remedial action to commence, which is in the best interest of the public,” said O’Mara. “The Plan is supported by a vast amount of data and analysis.”

During the public hearing regarding the proposed plan of remediation, residents expressed continued opposition to the proposed remedial action plan, as well as the redevelopment of the site as a poultry processing plant.

Located at 29984 Pinnacle Way, the 107.3-acre former pickling factory could be converted into a chicken processing plant, after Korean company Allen Harim Foods entered into a Brownfields development agreement in August, promising to clean up hazardous contaminants left from Vlasic’s nearly 40 years of operation there before spending an estimated $100 million to redevelop the site for its own processing plant.

The Brownfields Development Program encourages the cleanup and redevelopment of vacant, abandoned or underutilized properties, which may be contaminated.

“The Plan found that the Site’s investigation detected several hazardous substances about the [Delaware Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act (HSCA] screening levels for soil and vapor and water,” said O’Mara’s order, adding that the levels were reviewed according to an HSCA-approved Human Health Risk Assessment.

“This review concluded that the proposed use of the property as a poultry processing plant did not pose any undue risk to humans who may reasonable come into contact with the contaminants in excess of the HSCA screening levels.”

During the investigation, through 21 groundwater samples, DNREC found that there were exceedances of the Delaware Drinking Water Standard. PCE and TCE were above the standard of one part per billion (ppb) at one monitoring well, located centrally within the site.

During the hearing, DNREC officials said the department knows the contamination is localized because the levels of those contaminants are below standards at surrounding sampling sites.

In deep soil sampling, one location had iron exceeding DNREC’s screening values, but it was deemed to not present a risk and to not require remedial action. Chloroform was also found to exceed standards of soil vapor samples; however, officials said that, through further study, it was determined no action would be necessary on that issue.

The Brownfields investigation also showed exceedances of aluminum, arsenic, barium, cadmium and cobalt but did not exceed the Delaware Drinking Water Standard.

However, lead exceeded the standard of 15 ppb, by 2.3 ppb.

Nitrates were detected in several monitoring and drinking-water wells onsite, at levels above the Delaware Drinking Water Standard of 10 ppb, at two monitoring wells and one public well.

The approved plan, as recommended by DNREC’s Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances, Site Investigation and Remediation Section (SIRS), will include a long-term groundwater monitoring plan be developed and implemented once approved by the section.

Many who opposed the plan during the Dec. 17 hearing stated that the investigation did not have enough information regarding the contaminants and their locations.

The hearing officer, Robert Haynes, who recommended the approval of the plan to O’Mara, in his report stated, “The Plan should be implemented to gain more data, as requested by the public comments, and the monitoring may include offsite wells and new wells as determined appropriate from the testing.”

O’Mara added that DNREC will have a role in future development of the site, “should the proposed use require permits for wastewater discharges, emissions into the air, or for the disposal of wastes.”

“The order is a no-action remediation plan, which means no contaminants are being removed from the site. It is merely a monitoring plan that is generic-there are no details. We stand behind the numerous experts who have called the investigation inadequate and asked for additional testing both onsite and offsite,” said Maria Payan of Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, a non-profit organization that is helping the local Protecting Our Indian River citizens’ group in its opposition to the redevelopment plan.

The Secretary’s Order also found that the Department has provided adequate public notice of the proceeding and had followed all requirements of Delaware law and regulations, though opponents had argued to the contrary.

O’Mara’s Order was issued on Dec. 24, one day after the hearing officer’s report was filed. The hearing was held on Dec. 17, seven days prior to the Order, which concerns some who opposed the plan.

“I can’t believe Secretary O’Mara only took seven days to make a decision,” said Cindy Wilton of Protecting Our Indian River.

“The quick approval of this plan before two federal holidays points to the fact that the numerous experts’ comments were not thoroughly looked at or considered,” added Payan.

Both Payan and Wilton said that O’Mara’s order would be appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board, which consists of seven Delaware residents, appointed by the governor, with each county having at least two representative members.

“We most definitely intend to appeal,” said Wilton, “when we had expert testimony proving that the contamination has moved off-site. But, yet, no off-site testing has been done from DNREC. It has been from specialists that Protecting Our Indian River has brought in. Let alone putting the order out before two major holidays. It just goes to show our experts’ opinions were not even considered.

“DNREC, our state agencies, and our politicians, are supposed to look out for the public’s health,” she added. “I might say, ‘They are doing a very poor job,’ and that is putting it nicely.”

“Socially Responsible Agriculture Project and the Inland Bays Foundation support the decision of the Protecting Our Indian River citizens’ group to move forward with an appeal,” added Payan. “There are numerous residential communities on shallow wells that are being ignored. The agency has known since 1991 there was a contaminated groundwater plume threatening shallow residential wells.”

To read O’Mara’s Secretary’s Order, visit them online and review http://goo.gl/1TO5ax.