Agricultural Tank Moratorium Extension Supported

SALISBURY – A moratorium on the permitting of certain agricultural storage tanks will be extended another year.

Following a public hearing on Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted unanimously to extend a moratorium on the issuance of building permits for dissolved air flotation (DAF) storage tanks that hold poultry rendering waste.

The moratorium, introduced earlier this month, will last one year as officials study the issue and discuss potential legislation to regulate the storage of such material.

“The purpose of the moratorium was to allow further study and action to change the zoning code,” council attorney Robert Taylor said in October. “So I’m not going to say we are at ground zero, but we haven’t progressed very far from that.”

The topic of DAF tanks was first introduced last year, when Wicomico County Planning, Zoning and Community Development issued a building permit allowing a local farmer to construct a three-million-gallon storage tank containing poultry by-products on his property in the area of Porter Mill Road.

Since that time, several nearby residents have shared their concerns with the council regarding the smells and potential hazards associated with the tank. There is also litigation in Wicomico County Circuit Court challenging the validity of that storage tank and the permit issued for its construction.

While the moratorium – first passed in November 2019 – does not affect that particular project, officials in Wicomico County argued it would allow for further review of the permitting process and zoning issues related to DAF storage tanks.

In a public hearing this week, the moratorium received the support of Friends of the Nanticoke River and Wicomico Environmental Trust (WET). Board member Madeleine Adams argued the council could use the one-year moratorium to explore the impact of DAF tanks on public and environmental health.

“As the size of proposed projects have grown to massive scale, the risks to the health of neighboring residents, and to air, land and water quality in the county, have become extremely serious …,” she said. “WET therefore encourages the county to utilize the time afforded by the extension of the moratorium on the permitting of DAF storage tanks to address the potentially huge liability and to incorporate into the permitting process consideration of public health and environmental health.”

Porter Mill Road resident Pam Olszewski also encouraged the council to support the moratorium. She argued the DAF tank now located near her house has impacted safety and quality of life.

“We consider it a hazard to our health and wellbeing …,” she said.

With no further discussion, the council voted 7-0 to extend the moratorium for one year.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.