A new facility that will convert tons of Delmarva Peninsula’s chicken manure and slaughterhouse waste into energy is closer to becoming a reality.

The county council in Delaware’s southernmost county approved a zoning change April 20 in a key regulatory win for Bioenergy Devco, the company seeking to build a $50 million anaerobic digester near the town of Blades.

“The [digester] will provide a much-needed alternative to organic material management in the area,” said Peter Ettinger, the company’s chief development officer. “Not only will the facility reduce land application [of manure] and [keep] poultry organics from going into landfills, but it will also turn these organics into renewable natural gas and [produce a] virtually odorless soil amendment.”

The council also has agreed to make available to the company up to $60 million in private activity bonds for the project.

The Sussex County proposal has attracted ire from some environmentalists, who say it further incentivizes the construction of industrial-scale chicken farms on the peninsula. Others say the potential for explosions or gas leaks at the plant poses an unacceptable risk to people living nearby.

Anaerobic digester rendering

A rendering of the proposed anaerobic digester near Seaford, DE, shows new tanks where waste will be broken down to create biogas. The existing building in the foreground, Perdue's former pellet fertilizer plant, will house other components of the digester. The composting facility is seen in the background.

“To burden a local population already surrounded by Superfund sites and poultry factory farms with this factory farm gas scheme will only invite greater public health and safety risks,” said Food & Water Watch Delaware organizer Greg Layton.

The project requires additional approval from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control before moving forward.

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