Porter Mill Road DAF tank spills up to 50,000 gallons, material seeping into wetlands says MDE


HEBRON, Md. – A dissolved air flotation (DAF) tank has only served as a source of worry for residents on Porter Mill Road over the last several years.

DAF Tank Spills

Monday, a potential spill that residents continually raised the alarm about, finally happened. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) originally told to 47 ABC that 100,000 gallons of DAF material leaked from the tank, into surrounding wetlands. Late Wednesday afternoon, MDE corrected the statement to say the spill was contained to between 35,000 and 50,000 gallons.

MDE says a failure in a pipe that leads to a valve at the tank is to blame, and that the agency was initially notified Monday afternoon by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). MDE officials say the agency notified Wicomico County government officials, after it received citizen inquiries. However, county leaders tell 47 ABC they were notified by the residents, themselves.

“It’s been a constant slap in the face for the residents down here. Every single Council meeting we went down we brought this up every single time: what’s going to happen with a spill?” said Gary Mansell, who lives near the tank. “This takes it a step further. It’s one thing that we’ve had this issue for three years now, with the noise and the smell. But, when that stuff starts to leak, it’s a whole different story.”

“We tried to tell them this.”

For years, residents have spoken out with their concerns around the tank. It contains material which results from the industrial production of pet food from poultry waste.

“It’s the same story as when we started fighting the tank. Nobody will answer your phone calls to start with,” said Kenny Robinson, who lives about 400 yards from the tank. “We tried to tell them this.”

Robinson says over the years, he and neighbors have watched one truck overturn approaching the tank, and another get stuck in a nearby field. Neighbors add that the smell emanating from the 3 million gallon tank is inescapable, and “nauseating.” Adding, the tank attracts swarms of flies to their properties, and concerns about the health affects of inadvertently ingesting DAF material; worries that stretch far into the future.

“We built that home with our own sweat and tears. We built it ourselves. And, we were thinking it would be a place where the children and grandchildren can [come],” said Robinson. “If my grandkids or my kids, when I’m gone, want to sell it – the property value, when they built that tank, went to hell in our neighborhood. I can tell you that.”

Nearby residents are now planning to get their well water tested, likely on their own dollar.

“I honestly didn’t think it would happen this quickly. I’m a little bit surprised by that, but I guess I shouldn’t be. My question is, how long is it going to go on?” said Lynette Kenney, who lives near the tank. “We’re upset. My husband and I, and some of our neighbors, we’re going to get our wells checked, which is going to cost us a significant amount of money.”

County Leaders Respond

Meanwhile, county leaders say they’re working to help affected residents as much as they can. Wicomico County Council President says he was amazed by overhead drone images of the tank, nearly filled to the brim.

“It looked pretty catastrophic,” said Cannon. “Once I got the call, I immediately called our offices, and said you need to contact whatever agencies you need to, to get people out there to make sure everything is safe.”

Cannon says Planning and Zoning, county emergency services, and the Wicomico County Health Department (WCHD) were notified. Planning and Zoning replied they would need a full report from MDE to respond, says Cannon. And, he says, county emergency services were not able to respond because DAF is not considered a hazardous material under Maryland law.

47 ABC reached out to the WCHD, which says the MDA is responding. MDA did not respond to requests for information from 47 ABC.

Preparing for Potential Spills

Cannon says moving forward, he hopes to clarify who would primarily handle such situations on a county level. That could be done by adding it to an existing job description, says Cannon.

“We need to know exactly which agencies in our county are going to address those types of situations,” said Cannon. “We’re going to have to make sure that we lock that down, and know exactly where that one phone call is going to be, and who’s going to respond.”

Cannon adds that he plans to work with Wicomico County’s Executive, and other Council members, to find solutions moving forward. “It’s quite disturbing, and I get that. [The residents] are very concerned. But, everyone I’ve talked to has been very polite about their concerns, and we’re trying to do everything we can for them,” said Cannon.

Categories: Environment, Local News, Maryland