McBride, Johnson Call for Landfill Height Cap

DOVER – Delaware communities won’t have to worry about landfills filled with industrial and construction waste towering over them under legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader David McBride and Rep. James “JJ” Johnson.

McBride, D-Hawks Nest, and Johnson, D-Jefferson Farms, are introducing the bill to address concerns about proposed plans to increase the height of Delaware Recyclable Products Inc.’s New Castle landfill. The New Castle facility is the only Delaware landfill permitted as an industrial and construction waste site.

“This issue is of great concern to our constituents,” said McBride, a longtime leader on environmental policy in the First State. “But this goes beyond our community. Landfills are complex engineering projects, and as you build them higher and higher, you increase the risks of foundation failures and the groundwater contamination that can go with it. That’s a bad problem anywhere, but it’s an especially dangerous situation in urban areas.”

Delaware’s most recent landfill expansion, at Wilmington’s Cherry Island Landfill, took almost a decade of negotiation and construction at a cost of $90 million. The landfill has lower height than was originally sought as well as restrictions on the materials it will accept and it must undergo stringent environmental monitoring.

Johnson said the bill is a good first step to addressing environmental concerns raised by the community.

“I’m certainly concerned about the possibility of failures and leaks, so I fully support this bill,” he said. “This area already has some extreme environmental concerns, and this is a good start to addressing them.”

David Trincia, president of the Minquadale Civic Association, lives near the landfill and said the legislators are doing the right thing with their bill. That’s because, he says, increasing the landfill’s height as the company is proposing would block airflow into the community and would add to problems of dust, noise and smells the area already has to live with.

“It probably shouldn’t have been built this close to a community in the first place, but that’s done. We have some of the highest cancer rates in the state and breathing in all that dust, dirt and trash probably doesn’t help,” he said. “This proposal is a step forward not just for keeping landfills at bay, not just for Minquadale, but for all communities.”

The proposal would restrict industrial landfill heights to 130 feet and would not affect what are known as sanitary landfills, such as Cherry Island and Sandtown which are permitted to handle residential or office types of waste. Although lawmakers aren’t scheduled to come back to Legislative Hall until January, McBride and Johnson said they’re introducing the bill now so it can get quick action.

“This is an important issue and getting a start on it now will give us a chance to have full hearings and get it addressed in January,” McBride said. “We shouldn’t drag out something that will give our citizens a safer environment."