At a packed New Castle County Planning Board hearing, county land use officials said they intend to add stricter provisions to an ordinance that would limit the height of landfills. It is the only active legislative effort to prevent the controversial Delaware Recyclable Products, Inc. (DRPI) landfill in West Minquadale from expanding vertically from 130 to 190 feet above sea level.  A similar bill in the General Assembly died in the state Senate earlier this summer.

County Councilman Dave Carter says concerns that surfaced since the county proposal was written, including about the DRPI landfill’s potential impact on groundwater, led him to seek to strengthen the measure. He wants to lower the maximum allowable height under the draft ordinance from its current 140 feet — and add language about overall landfill bulk, setbacks and buffers.

Currently, the proposed legislation would only apply to the DRPI landfill, but Carter sees it as proactively constricting any future landfills in the county, which he says would likely be placed in southern New Castle County.

The DRPI landfill’s bid for expansion is pending before the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). County officials say state environmental permits must comply with county-level zoning. At the planning board hearing, Artesian Water company representatives spoke in favor of the proposed county limits, repeating concerns about the landfill they’ve raised in comments submitted to DNREC.

Karl Randall, general counsel for Artesian Resources Corporation, said the landfill sits on top of the Potomac Aquifer, a source of drinking water. He said in the event of a vertical expansion, compaction of existing waste could cause liquid to seep out of an unlined portion of the landfill that precedes Waste Management’s ownership. He compared the landfill to a tube of toothpaste. “If you squeeze the top, it’s coming out the bottom,” he said. “The bottom is our water source.”

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