Public urged to voice their concerns about Harim application

Last week, Millsboro resident Kenny Haynes and Maria Payan, a Pennsylvania resident and consultant with national nonprofit Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, spoke to nearly 20 concerned citizens about the potential impacts of the Allen Harim plant moving into the vacant former Vlasic Pickle plant near Millsboro.

In June, the Sussex County Board of Adjustment held a public hearing on an application from Allen Harim Foods for a special-use exception for a potentially hazardous use — a poultry processing facility. The BoA gave state agencies 30 days to file comments on the application, with residents being given an additional seven days to comment, ending Aug. 7.

Payan urged those who attended the meeting to write to the board voicing their concerns about Harim taking over the plant.

“This is important, because this is where the public gets to have a say,” she said. “The public should be given 30 days,” she added. “A seven-day comment period is not acceptable, especially when it wasn’t advertised anywhere.”

Payan also said she was concerned that the agencies involved are not being transparent, as the Vlasic site is already classified as a Brownfields site — which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, “means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”

Preliminary soil and water studies at the site were conducted by BP Environmental and sent to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The results found levels exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for chromium, chloride, nitrates and numerous cancer-causing chemicals.

“We already have contamination,” said Payan. “We know it is carcinogenic. There are at least two parcels in there where they have this contamination. They cannot say if the wells offsite or onsite have been affected.”

Payan asked if anyone in the audience had had their water tested in the last year.

“We can’t afford it,” responded one resident.

Payan said that, within the next six to eight weeks, there would be a national water testing company that would be testing a number of residential wells in the area surrounding the former plant.

She added that citizens have the right to speak out against something like the plant, if they believe it would be detrimental for their community.

“It’s within your rights as a citizen. It’s going to be you guys who live here… Hold everybody accountable, that’s all I ask,” she said. “This is something so personal, that this is your home. Nobody wants to stop economic progress, but we have to be careful where we put things. When we have two schools within a mile, when we have people on well water…”

Haynes noted that there are currently 12 poultry processing plants in the state of Delaware and urged attendees to consider the impact Harim could have on the area’s environment.

A resident of Wharton’s Bluff, Haynes ended the meeting by holding up a picture he had taken of the community’s resident bald eagle.

“That’s one bird I don’t want to see on my table,” he said.

The deadline for written comments ended on Aug. 7. No date has been set for when the application will return to the Board of Adjustment for a possible decision.