Artesian-Allen Harim deal depends on construction plan approval

The public is invited to speak their minds about a major Sussex County wastewater treatment deal Thursday night.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Groundwater Discharges Section will conduct a public hearing at 6 p.m. on July 27 at the Milton Public Library regarding proposed amendments to the Artesian Northern Sussex Regional Water Reclamation Facility construction permit application.

The facility was originally proposed in 2006 for the purpose of servicing the Villages of Elizabethtown, an over 3700-unit, 750-acre housing development planned for an area just west of Milton. Artesian, a water resource management company that services over 85,000 customers on Delmarva, was brought in to handle the wastewater.

Artesian came up with plans to build the ANSRWRF in an area just northwest of the proposed Elizabethtown and to spray-irrigate the housing development’s treated wastewater. Plans included enough infrastructure to support Elizabethtown as well as any other municipal wastewater needs that might develop down the road.

The Villages of Elizabethtown never came to fruition.

Ten years later, Artesian has finally found a client for the ANSRWRF in Allen Harim’s Harbeson poultry processing facility.

Allen Harim has been under pressure from the community, DNREC and other environmental groups to improve their treated wastewater disposal methods, especially after being issued a notice of violation from DNREC in November 2016 that outlined egregiously high releases of ammonia, among other chemicals, into Beaverdam Creek. Allen Harim executives think they’ve found a solution in piping their wastewater to the proposed ANSRWF.

Artesian is now hoping to amend its construction permit, originally granted in 2013, in order to spray-irrigate Allen Harim’s treated wastewater onto about 1,700 acres of various plots of farmland outside of Milton. It’s up to DNREC to decide whether or not to approve the updated plans, and DNREC is required to hold a public hearing before making such a decision.

Tony Scarpa, who lives near the proposed site of the ANSRWRF and who co-founded the citizens' group “Keep Our Wells Clean,” plans to attend the hearing to voice his opinion.

“What was originally planned as a treatment system for thousands of homes, which would provide truly public service has somehow morphed into a site for daily industrial waste disposal that serves only Allen-Harim,” Scarpa said.

Citizens can register to make their own comments at the meeting by emailing Commenters should register no later than the day before the hearing. Those unable to attend may email comments to that address prior to the hearing.