Wicomico Co. Council debates new regulations for DAF tanks

WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – Tuesday, Wicomico County Council grappled with the issue of open dissolved air flotation storage tanks. You may know them as sludge tanks. The tanks are typically used to store industrial agricultural waste. There are currently two in Wicomico County. The Council recently instructed county Planning and Zoning to draft legislation that would tighten restrictions on where future tanks can be built. The proposed legislation states that as the agricultural industry and economy grow on the local level, so must regulations.

The proposed legislation would require a 300 foot setback, and require tanks to be set on sites at least five acres in size. It also defines the tanks as “an above ground open topped structure, designed and used for the storage of an agricultural product, by-product, fertilizer or soil amendment.” The Council says, for that reason, the range of what exactly is put into the waste tanks is diverse. That means that environmental and health effects could impact safety on many levels. The legislation also limits the tanks in I1 and I2 industrial zones to have a capacity to 150,000 gallons. Any tanks that exceed that are only permitted on special exceptions.

But, critics say that those regulations wouldn’t do much to protect the environment from pollution, homeowners from health hazards, and industrial traffic on country roads. “The proposed legislation in effect enshrines in the zoning code the novel and destructive idea that heavy industrial uses may be approved in areas zoned for agricultural use, contravening the Council’s clear policy intent, and radically changing the current law,” said Judith Parker with the Wicomico Environmental Trust.

Council didn’t make any final decision on those provisions. But, they did recommend that storage tanks of that kind only be allowed in industrial zones. The County Attorney is now working on revising the legislation.

Categories: Local News, Maryland