Selbyville council makes a stink over Mountaire odor

Date Published: 
September 12, 2014

The Selbyville Town Council is holding its nose — and its breath — over the stinky situation at the Mountaire poultry processing plant in town.

Sussex County is no stranger to agricultural odors, including manure and fertilizer, but “The stink is getting ridiculous,” said Councilman Rick Duncan at the Sept. 8 council meeting. “I’m about to call the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. Every month we talk about the stink at Mountaire, and it’s getting ridiculous. … You can’t even sit outside at night because of the stink.”

After “putting up with it all summer,” Duncan said Mountaire needs to be a better neighbor.

Despite encouraging residents to report the stench to Town Hall (for an official report), the council hasn’t heard the desired feedback from Mountaire. So it’s speaking up now.

“It’s probably about time” to take action, said Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle. Mayor Clifton Murray agreed that it’s time to sit down and talk with Mountaire representatives.

“We can fine them every day,” Duncan said.

“The effluent is fantastic,” Frank Smith III clarified, emphasizing that Mountaire’s new wastewater treatment system works well but is not capturing odor particles from the air. And it’s certainly an improvement from the 1950s and 1960s, when waste was just dumped in Sandy Branch creek. (Later, Mountaire, the EPA and Selbyville collaborated to build the town’s first major wastewater treatment plant.)

The poultry odors may be insult added to injury. Smith said he has photographs of Mountaire trucks violating the operating agreement that Mountaire created with Selbyville in 2013.

For instance, live-haul trucks are to be parked in a roofed parking facility, to prevent the spread of waste or manure. But Smith said the trucks have been parked under open skies while feed trucks rested indoors. Jay Murray said sporadic infractions are one thing, but repeatedly parking the trucks outside is a bigger deal.

Town Administrator Bob Dickerson said the Town can call Mountaire’s director of operations, Jay Griffith, who began representing the company at recent council meetings. He was not present at this meeting, although Mountaire sent another representative to listen.

“It’s better, but it’s not what it’s supposed to be,” Jay Murray said.

Clifton Murray and Tingle said they’ve also seen trucks “bust” blindly out of the Hosier Street garages without a flagger to alert traffic.

The council will review the operating agreement and its options. But ultimately, Duncan said, “It’s not in the Town’s best interest” to shut down Mountaire completely.

A good grant for a bad problem

The Selbyville Police Department recently was awarded a $19,000 grant from the Fund to Combat Violent Crime.

Beginning in October, Selbyville can use the funding to crack down on a variety of potential crimes, including abuse, manslaughter, kidnapping, burglary, carjacking, drug crimes and rioting.

“I like the money — especially where I’m shorthanded,” said Chief W. Scott Collins, noting that the department currently has one captain out on leave. “It allows me to put those officers on the street.”

Unfortunately, the grant was needed because Selbyville is facing such crimes (though not all of them), including assault, robbery, weapons violations and attempted murder.

Collins uses a “data-driven system” to pinpoint when crimes occur and how the grants are best utilized. That improves SPD’s chance of winning the grant, and makes the State happy to see results.

Whenever Delaware courts collect a fine, an extra $15 assessment is collected for a fund not to exceed $2.125 million (excess money returns to the Delaware General Fund). That money is split between Delaware State Police and municipal police statewide.

Full-time departments get at least $15,000, which is funding Selbyville is using to combat crime with a new voice-stress analyzer (similar to a polygraph test, which can be used to prosecute crime).

Historically, Halloween and the holiday season are busier for police, Collins noted, though he added that he was happy to see school begin again, as August was also busier for the SPD.

In July, the police assessed $5,896 in fines, wrote 214 tickets and had 184 calls for service. Collins said they got “exceptional results” with another State grant for overtime hours.

In other Selbyville news:

• Selbyville won a 2013 Water Fluoridation Award, one of 23 water systems in Delaware honored for dental health in preventing tooth decay.

• With several industrial park businesses hoping for higher-speed Internet, Dickerson said it would cost $15,000 to bring a fiber optic cable across the state line. He is looking for State funding or a shared cost program, as the move could benefit not just the businesses, but the town and state.