Officials from Allen Harim Foods held a public meeting earlier this week in Millsboro, to help give citizens a better idea of what it might be like if the company takes over the former Vlasic pickle plant.
“We want to be a good neighbor. We want this to work,” said Matt Hamilton, senior manager of sales for Allen Harim.
Hamilton said that the company actually plans to reduce the environmental impact from what Pinnacle Foods had while it was in the Millsboro facility, through various upgrades, including a new wastewater system.
“Our preliminary guidelines from DNREC (Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control) are stricter than Vlasic’s,” he said. “Vlasic had nine wastewater discharge points. We will close some of those, which will reduce the stormwater released into Wharton’s Branch. We will treat the remaining water before it goes into the streams, resulting in a high quality of water.”
Hamilton said that the Pinnacle Foods’ permits allowed the company to pump out 3.8 million gallons of water per day, whereas Allen Harim only plans to pump 800,000 gallons per day. He added that the company plans to draw water from the deepest aquifer on the property, rather than the top aquifer, which provides well water to many nearby residential properties.
“Existing wells on-site have nitrate levels between 8 and 10 and high levels of iron. In order for the water to be used, we’ll have to treat the water,” he noted. “The State has given us preliminary guidelines for water after we’ve used it. Treated wastewater is to be below 3 parts per million for nitrates and below 1 for phosphorous.”
“The federal government won’t let us process poultry at that high a level. We have to be below 2,” added Jim Quinton, director of operations. “We want them to be well below 2.”
Hamilton said the water leaving the plant would be treated to the point where it would be safe enough to drink and that employees have actually consumed water discharged from another such facility.
“The ‘wild, wild West’ of run-a-plant-and-dump-whatever-you-want is done. DNREC is in our plant. They’re checking our numbers. They’re checking our water. They’re checking the water downstream.”
A number of concerns had previously been voiced about the odors potentially produced by the plant. Hamilton said that he believes odor will not be an issue.
“This facility is only a processing plant,” he said. “We don’t have the issues that feed mills have. We don’t have the dust issues of a feed mill. We don’t have the odors of a hatchery, and we don’t have the odor issues of a rendering plant.”
He suggested that concerned citizens drive by the company’s Harbeson facility if they are concerned about the noise and smell.
“It should be better from this plant, because we’re building from scratch. We’ll be using new technology that hasn’t been brought to the country yet.”
The plans for the $100 million plant include the installation of an exhaust air scrubber, commonly used in Europe for swine operations. The scrubber has three components: a physical filter, a chemical filter and a biological filter.
“This will reduce odor by 80 percent from a standard percent, ammonia by 95 percent and dust by 95 percent.”
Hamilton added that the company will be removing the rendering products by refrigerated trucks within three hours.
“It will be loaded and leave the premises,” he said. “It’s not going to be an open container. This is a covered container.”
The live receiving area and cooling shed will be a completely enclosed area located at the rear of the facility, to also help reduce noise concerns.
Hamilton added there have also been concerns expressed about an increase in traffic through Millsboro. He said that, once the plant opens, traffic will increase by approximately 85 large tractor-trailer trucks per day.
He added that the company is currently looking for alternative routes to the plant, looking at alternatives routes or possibly retaining an easement agreement or purchasing a piece of property to get an entrance right to the back of the plant.
“We are trying to minimize the traffic and make it as easy on ourselves to get in and out of the plant, as well,” he said. “The State will be involved. They will be doing studies and tell us what to do to best handle that.”
He added that traffic on the weekends would be extremely minimal, as employees will only be in the facility for maintenance work or to make up for lost hours, in the event of a closing due to weather.
The Sussex County Board of Adjustment had been expected to vote this week on a special-use exception for a potentially hazardous use — a poultry processing facility, filed by Allen Harim for the Millsboro plant. But the vote was deferred to a later date.
Hamilton said if everything goes smoothly, the plant could be open in mid-2015.
“It’s not anything that starts next week. It appears that we will continue to have meetings in the future to really fill in the blanks. We want to be able to be as transparent as possible. We want to address the concerns of the community.”