Wicomico Council Supports Ban On DAF Storage Tanks

SALISBURY – A proposal to ban dissolved air flotation (DAF) storage tanks in Wicomico County will move forward with the support of the Wicomico County Council.

In a recent work session, the Wicomico County Council agreed to have legal counsel review the possibility of banning DAF storage tanks that hold poultry rendering waste.

While the storage of the liquid organic fertilizer is currently permitted in various zoning districts, the construction of a three-million-gallon DAF tank on Porter Mill Road prompted officials to consider limits, or bans, on the storage of such material.

“The county does have the authority to regulate storage of waste products,” Councilman Bill McCain said. “The state controls the application of the product, and the local authorities have the authority over storage facilities.”

The topic of DAF tanks was first introduced in 2019, when a building permit was issued to allow a local farmer to construct a multi-million-gallon DAF tank on Porter Mill Road. Several nearby residents and environmental advocacy groups, however, have since shared their concerns with the council regarding the smells and potential hazards associated with the tank. There has also been litigation in Wicomico County Circuit Court challenging the validity of that storage tank and the permit issued for its construction.

In the years since the issue was first brought to the council’s attention, the legislative body has enacted – and extended – a moratorium on the issuance of building permits related to the construction of DAF tanks. Now, with the latest moratorium set to expire at the end of the year, officials are exploring proposed legislation, if not an outright ban, that would restrict DAF tanks.

“I know the prohibition of tanks was something I raised,” said council attorney Andrew Mitchell. “If the council is interested in pursuing that, I would like a chance to get more involved with that and see if it’s something that could be supported. There’s information on both sides, and the planning commission came down on the no-prohibition side.”

Mitchell came before the council last week to discuss possible text amendments limiting the construction of DAF tanks to either the industrial or agricultural district.

“I understand the argument that it’s an industrial product, but it’s clearly an agricultural use,” he said.

Mitchell also proposed a special exception for the construction of DAF tanks.

“The special exception is what I would recommend …,” he said. “The best way to address that is to have important threshold regulations – setbacks, screening, relationship to traffic, nearness to wetlands, rural legacy, paleochannel – and you put them in the special exception, so when the applicant goes to the board of zoning appeals, they have a burden of proving that they can meet that standard.”

But Council President John Cannon questioned if the council even desired the construction of additional DAF storage tanks in Wicomico.

“I guess the first question is if the council wants to prohibit DAF storage tanks,” he said.

Mitchell, however, warned the council such a ban could lead to unintended consequences.

“While the state regulates the use of DAF and many products, it’s the county that’s regulating the storage,” he said. “In essence, you are regulating the tank. So if you begin to put in place harsh regulations, or possibly prohibitions, you may be affecting other uses you don’t intend.”

McCain, however, argued the county would define the type of storage tank that would be banned.

“This would be specific to DAF,” he said.

When asked for a consensus on banning DAF storage tanks, Councilman Joe Holloway questioned if it was even allowed.

“Before we make this decision, are we even allowed to prohibit it?” he said.

Cannon, however, said he wanted to move forward with some consensus from the council.

“We want to make a decision now and [legal counsel] can review it,” he said.

After further discussion, the council agreed to move forward with an outright ban on storage tanks, with Holloway the lone opposer.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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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.