Environmental activists, residents say they’re still fighting their battle against Wicomico Co. waste tank
WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – 47ABC is checking in on a story we’ve been following for almost two years now: the sludge tank in the area of Mardela Springs and Hebron. After media coverage, an ongoing lawsuit, and now a documentary, environmental activists and residents say their pleas for something to be done about the tank are falling on deaf ears. “We’re coming up on a year of experience with the tank being in operation and it’s be absolutely horrible for them,” said President-Elect of the Wicomico Environmental Trust Madeleine Adams.
One of the more immediate effects of the tank has been an odor that residents say can sometimes force them to stay indoors. That smell emanates from what could be as much as 3 million gallons of waste. “On a hot summer day it’s just horrendous. There’s a combination of the smell of ammonia and rotting flesh,” said Adams.
The problems that residents have with the tank don’t just stop with the smell. Swarms of flies, large industrial trucks coming and going at all hours of the night, and concerns about the environment are taking center stage. In a new documentary by the Wicomico Environmental Trust, environmental experts say the material in the tank comes from the waste of pet food production. “My recommendation would be you just don’t put a facility like that here,” said Professor Emeritus from Salisbury University Dr. Judith Stribling, in the documentary.
Dr. Stribling says if the tank were to leak, water in the area could be highly contaminated. “The Columbia aquifer is the main water source for Wicomico County, Dorchester County, and Worcester County,” said Dr. Stribling.
On top of that, Adams says there’s not really any way to prevent any overflow or spillage from flowing into the surrounding land. “There is no berm around this tank. There is absolutely nothing to contain the waste if it overflows,” said Adams.
In the documentary, Dr. Stribling said that another worrying factor about the tank is the unknown health effects it could have on nearby residents. She and her team conducted chemical analysis of similar facilities, and says the results were troubling. “We looked over those and discovered that basically there is a huge amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are the main nutrients that cause problems in waterways,” said Dr. Stribling.
Adams says residents also feel misled and left out of the permitting process, and are now stuck living with the tank. “They had tried to persuade first the county not to approve the tank building permit, and they had tried to get that building permit withdrawn,” said Adams.
Adams tells 47ABC what was billed as an agricultural facility that would take up an acre or less has turned into an industrial nightmare. She says she and other activists are hoping that Wicomico County will change their permitting process to include public input on projects like the tank. Adams says, that way, they can prevent a situation like this in the future. “This problem is much larger than just this neighborhood. It affects really anybody who lives in rural areas in this county,” said Adams.
47ABC did reach out to county council members to get their take on the situation and did not hear back. We also asked for comment from the county’s Planning, Zoning, and Community Development office. They said they were not able to comment on the situation because of the ongoing lawsuit involving the tank.