Eighteen state lawmakers have jointly called for denial of a permit renewal needed by an industrial-scale composting plant near the Port of Wilmington, citing chronic, foul odors that have victimized residents over a wide area.
The appeal to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control arrived on the final day of public comment for continuation of a state approval issued for Peninsula Compost LLC’s Wilmington Organics Recycling Center.
More than 200 people turned out for a DNREC public hearing on renewal of the company’s five-year “beneficial use determination” permit. Critics and opponents included residents, church leaders, government officials and environmental group representatives.
Acknowledging that permit denial would “effectively shut down the facility,” the legislators’ letter said that “to not do so would continue the problems that have persisted for several years.”
Problems and violations at Peninsula Compost have occurred consistently since it opened, with a 2012 fire temporarily shutting down Port of Wilmington operations and the facility racking up violations in each of the last three years.
Peninsula began developing the site with substantial fanfare and state and local support more than five years ago, aiming to divert as much as 160,000 tons of food waste and other castoffs from local landfills each year. Although its intake included large volumes of spoiled fruit and fruit imports from the port, other wastes came in from sites around the region, including from as far away as New York.
Developers had intended to use high-tech cover fabrics and composting practices to rapidly convert wastes into marketable products. Raw material contamination with plastics and other unapproved materials, weather and poor market conditions all worked against the operation at times, however.
Operation problems and excessive stockpiles of finished and raw materials rolled odors across a wide area, despite production changes and placement of huge odor-masking spray devices around the site.
DNREC officials could not say when DNREC Secretary David Small would rule on the issue.