Governor, General Assembly, and Counties must act to 
protect Delawareans from incinerators

Port Penn. January 21, 2000.   Philpower Corp of North Carolina has tried again and again to find a Delaware site for its waste incinerator. Kicked out of the coastal zone (no thanks to state officials, who showed no enthusiasm for enforcing a law passed in 1998), Philpower has tried to go in and near the City of Wilmington. This week we learned of another possible site at 1190 Porter Rd. in Bear. Within 1½ miles of the proposed Bear burner site are more than 28 communities. The May B. Leasure Elementary School building is within about 1/3 mile of the proposed incinerator. The other sites are similar. Mr. Coverdale, President of Philpower, says he is "scoping out the whole area," and we believe him.

Before Philpower, people were tormented by a Delaware Solid Waste Authority incinerator (they called an "energy generation facility") near New Castle. (State officials gave it a Coastal Zone permit, contrary to law, and let it be built without scrubbers, contrary to the Clean Air Act.) The DSWA has tried to put burners elsewhere around the state, including in Redden State Forest.

A company named Fibrowatt wants to build a chicken manure incinerator. It would pollute a lot (we have studied the permits of their existing burners in England), and be so expensive that a big taxpayer subsidy would be needed. Still, some people in Delaware seem to think this is a reasonable idea. (We went to a meeting organized by the "Delmarva Poultry Industry" to hear a presentation by the head of Fibrowatt. DPI officials, supported by state officials, kicked us out after we asked questions Fibrowatt couldn't answer.)

Incinerators may seem reasonable at first glance: Their promoters say they get rid of waste, make electricity, don't pollute, create jobs, and so on. Green Delaware has learned to disregard these claims and study the actual permit applications and pollution reports. These are always different from the claims. For example Philpower, running day and night, would put out up to 10,000 pounds a day of health-threatening air pollutants. "Total Trace Metal Emission," including cancer causing chromium, arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel, would be up to 625 pounds per day (over a quarter of a million pounds per year). Philpower would also put out dioxin, possibly the most toxic substance known. (Traces of dioxin are what made "agent orange"so bad, ruining the health of so many veterans.) Dozens of big trucks each day would haul in about 500 million pounds a year of "construction and demolition debris" from surrounding states, to be ground up in giant "hammer mills" before burning. Sound like a good neighbor for an elementary school? 

United Kingdom Environment Secretary Michael Meacher, Testimony to the House of Lords, March, 1999 is quoted as saying:

"... the emissions from incinerator processes are extremely toxic. Some of the emissions are carcinogenic. We know scientifically that there is no safe threshold below which one can allow such emissions. We must use every reasonable instrument to eliminate them altogether..."

Studies have shown that people living within a few miles of an incinerator are more likely to get cancer. Delaware already has the highest cancer death rate of any US state, and our air is polluted by Federal standards. In a sensible world nobody would even consider letting another incinerator into Delaware. But, our political system runs on money as much as it runs on sense. How else could it be that Philpower's lobbyist, Robert Maxwell, also works for the American Cancer Society and the League of Local Governments? (The Cancer Society is stonewalling on this, and Green Delaware is asking people to withhold contributions to the Society as long as it employs lobbyists who also promote, as long time clean air advocate Jake Kreshtool said: "cancer through air pollution.")

Something needs to be done. We can't trust Delaware's existing laws to protect us from incinerators. Communities are tired of these constant threats to their health, property values, and quality of life. We have looked into how the incinerator threat has been handled in North Carolina, California, Michigan, and elsewhere. Our conclusion: prohibit incinerators (very carefully defined) within 2 miles of any permanent residence, and within 3 miles of any school, senior center, park, community center, retirement home, medical care facility, or other place used by people especially vulnerable to pollution. Consider prohibiting incinerators entirely in Delaware. 

We are drafting bills to do this.

The first responsibility of government is to protect the health and welfare of the people. We invite members of the General Assembly and their county equivalents to work with Green Delaware and the Civic Health Alliance to write and pass special incinerator legislation. Enough is enough.

Concerned people are invited to a public meeting at the Rose Hill Community Center on Lambson Lane on Rt. 9 near New Castle on Wednesday February 2, at 7:00.  Call 302, 656-8513 for directions. 


Let us know what you think. 

Email us at

or contact
Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX 

Green Delaware is funded through membership dues, donations, and grants.
All work is done by volunteers and members including this website. 

This page was last updated on January 25, 2000.