Perdue seeks wastewater permit renewal

by Ryan Mavity December 26, 2018

Perdue has proposed to dump its treated effluent into Savannah Ditch behind the company’s wastewater plant in Georgetown. Milton resident Keith Steck has asked the company to clean up parts of the ditch, which has tires and other debris floating in it.

Perdue Foods has submitted an application to renew its permit for a wastewater treatment facility at the company’s Georgetown plant.

Perdue is seeking a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permit that includes a sanitary treatment system that empties through two outfalls into Savannah Ditch, behind the Perdue wastewater plant. One outfall would be used for stormwater and the other for treated wastewater, said George Mwangi, engineer for Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Water.

Discharge that goes into the ditch flows toward the Broadkill River in Milton, affecting Diamond Pond and Wagamons Pond. Mwangi said DNREC has three water-quality monitoring stations along Savannah Ditch and two more at Wagamons Pond, at Pemberton Branch and Round Pole Branch, both just outside Milton.

Perdue is seeking some changes as it renews its permit. Mwangi said Perdue has vowed to have more stringent nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia limits, and is instituting whole effluent toxicity limits, defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as the aggregate effect on all organisms from pollutants contained in treated wastewater.

Mwangi said at a Nov. 27 public hearing in Georgetown that Perdue will be responsible for complying with DNREC effluent limitations, monitoring and reporting, notifying DNREC of noncompliance, disposing of sludge and hiring a state-certified wastewater treatment plant operator.

Within the last five years, Mwangi said, Perdue has been cited four times for exceeding nutrient limits. In May 2015, Perdue released too much enterococcus bacteria, while in June 2015, the plant exceeded its nitrogen and ammonia limits. In January 2016, the plant exceeded its total suspended solids limits. Mwangi said in each case, Perdue reported noncompliance to DNREC and took action to correct the problems. Perdue was fined a total of $77,000 for all three violations by DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin.

Steve Levitsky, vice president of sustainability for Perdue, said, “Perdue strives to be good stewards of our natural resources. We are supportive of the stricter requirements and are committed to making the necessary investment to meet those higher standards.”

Levitsky said prior violations were short-term issues with no long-term complications and were immediately addressed. He said Perdue invested $3 million in plant upgrades to make sure the violations do not occur again.

The hearing was requested by Milton resident Keith Steck, who said there is nothing in the application on the impact of effluent on Wagamons Pond, one of the key waterways in the town of Milton. Steck said there is also nothing in the permit on the effects on aquatic life.

Even more, Steck said the application does not address debris and pollution in Savannah Ditch, which includes tires, sofas and trash. He said even if much of that is not Perdue’s fault, the company should bear some responsibility for keeping it clean. Steck said the tires in particular are a problem.

“Even when they are taken out of the ditch, they seem to be just lined up on the bank rather than hauled away.  Yesterday, I counted eight or nine tires in the ditch, including a large truck tire,” he said. “Because tires are made of all of kinds of chemicals, as well as rubber, when they degrade, the compounds settle into the mud.  Even the ones not in the mud degrade because of sun exposure and the major seasonal changes, and rain will wash the material into Savannah Ditch.”

Shelly Cohen, of Milton, said, “I’m concerned about clean water. I don’t want to come down with weird diseases. I think it’s time for everyone to be a good neighbor. They need to step up and make the investment and clean up their act.”

The permit application will now go to Garvin’s office for a formal decision based on the comments at the hearing.