Ag Storage Tank Ban Now Law

SALISBURY – Legislation banning the use of certain open-top storage tanks in Wicomico County will go into effect next month.

In a meeting this month of the Wicomico County Council, Administrator Laura Hurley announced the adoption of legislation banning the open-top storage of liquid organic fertilizer or soil amendments.

The adoption of the bill, one of three presented to the council for consideration, concludes a three-year effort by local elected officials and county residents to address concerns associated with dissolved air flotation (DAF) storage tanks.

“Legislative Bill 2022-10, pertaining to the open storage tanks for the DAF material, was returned to the council office by the acting county executive unsigned,” Hurley said. “In accordance with Charter Section 411, if the county executive does not return the bill within 21 days, either approving or vetoing it, the bill automatically becomes law.”

The topic of DAF storage 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.

In September, however, the council was presented with three legislative bills – one to prohibit DAF tanks, one permitting DAF tanks in the I-2 heavy industrial zone with certain restrictions, and one permitting DAF tanks in the A-1 agricultural-rural zone with certain restrictions.

“What we’re trying to do here is come up with some sort of reasonable compromise …,” Council President John Cannon said at the time. “We don’t want to compromise an industry, but we certainly don’t want to subject neighborhoods to the issues and problems that have come before us.”

In September, the council ultimately voted to introduce legislation banning open-top DAF storage. Last month, the council voted 5-2, with Cannon and Councilman Joe Holloway opposed, to approve the legislative bill.

Council Administrator Laura Hurley noted this month the legislative bill had been sent to the acting county executive’s office but had been returned unsigned.

“The bill became law on Oct. 27 and will go into effect 60 days later, which is Dec. 27,” she announced.

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.