New Castle County is moving to put restrictions on landfills after residents spoke out in droves against a height increase.
"We have a problem in our county that, in the lowest income areas, there are the most extractive industries--the industries that are putting stuff into the air the greatest--are often in the lowest income communities," County Executive Matt Meyer said, pointing to the Route 9/Route 13 corridors coming south out of Wilmington.
While a legacy issue, Meyer is seeking to deal with it the best way he can; he's backing a proposal by County Councilman Jea Street that would cap landfill heights in the county at 140 ft.--aiming to dash a Minquadale landfill's desires to raise its height to 190 ft.
"The state can give a permit to allow somebody to build a landfill up to 1,000 ft., but if county law only allows them to go to 130 or 140 feet, that's the limit."
He said a lot of the waste at that site comes from out-of-state.
"I believe very strongly we need to be taking care of the waste that we generate; we cannot simply pass it off to somebody else outside of our county, and therefore, I think it's right to say we're not going to be taking in everybody else's trash no matter how much they pay us."
Meyer said he's received close to 500 emails on the issue--most in opposition to raising the landfill height, but some from landfill workers who fear for their jobs.
The ordinance will be voted on by New Castle County at its next meeting August 27, 2019.
The proposal was one of several pieces of proposed environmental legislation rolled out by Meyer Wednesday, August 21, 2019, in Rockwood Park.
Those proposals include goals of preserving private community open space and protecting water quality by eliminating future development on septic systems, which he claimed would lead to long-term cost-savings. Meyer said since he's taken office, nearly 1,000 plans have been submitted to build on septic.
"...[W]hich according to the water safety experts I speak to, is horrific, in a county our size to have that many septic systems," he said. "The experience in the county and our sewer system suggests they fail, it's very expensive for our county to take them over."
A draft ordinance to be introduced Tuesday, August 27, at council, seeks to make the county's moratorium on building on septic permanent. This is primarily an issue south of the C&D Canal in areas like Port Penn.
"This has both land use, smart growth and water quality goals to it," said County Land Use General Manager Rich Hall. "This is a key issue down there--where growth goes, how much growth, are we directing our growth, we want to do a better job targeting growth to areas that are planned for it, and trying to target more preservation in more rural areas for areas that are not targeted for growth. Right now, it's a little bit of a mix down there."
That measure could take a number of months to get various approvals, with full passage anticipated for December, Hall indicated.
To further improve water quality, Meyer touted the county's upcoming closure of the last sewer system outfall. He said, now, only treated wastewater will flow into the Delaware River.
"For years, the county sewer system would treat sewage and then dump it into rivers, primarily the Delaware River--that is not acceptable anymore."
Wednesday, he also met with 25 leading environmental activists in the state.
"One idea that came up is how do we...provide more charging stations for electric vehicles," he said. "We're doing a lot for solar, what more can do we do for wind and for geothermal."