Delaware Transfer Station Not for the Birds

Eastern shore Environmental Inc. (ESE), Little Creek, Del., a subsidiary of National Waste Services Inc., is defending itself against charges that its transfer station attracts birds and poses a risk to military aircraft using nearby Dover Air Force Base.

In July 2000, ESE received a permit modification from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to operate its 660-ton-per-day transfer station. The transfer station competes with the Delaware Solid Waste Authority's (DSWA) facilities in the state. Shortly after the permit was granted, a local resident, who works for the DSWA's law firm, appealed the decision.

In March, attorneys for the DNREC, DSWA, ESE and the Air Force stated their arguments during a two-day hearing.

The Dover Air Force Base has suggested that birds attracted to the transfer station, which is located about 1,500 feet away from the base's main runway, pose a risk to its flight operations although the facility is enclosed.

In response, ESE has argued that a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular states that enclosed waste handling facilities are compatible with aircraft operations. Additionally, ESE recently submitted reports concluding that no birds are attracted to the transfer station and that the presence of birds near the Dover Air Force Base is mostly because of its proximity to the Delaware Bay.

According to ESE vice president Marc Shaener, the bird issue is the latest in a series of moves coordinated by the DSWA to protect its monopoly over solid waste disposal in the state. "There is no evidence that birds have been or will be attracted to our transfer station, which has been operating for nearly two years," he says.

Shaener adds that soon after ESE received its permit from the DNREC, the DSWA sued the company, alleging that ESE engaged in deceptive trade practices and violated county zoning laws. A state court dismissed the case in late March. But according to the DSWA's attorney, F. Michael Parkowski, the ruling still does not resolve the zoning issue. "This was not a victory at all," says Parkowski of the DSWA's action. "It is an interim step that involves quite a lot more litigation than people would like to believe exists."

A ruling by the appeals board is expected by July.