A huge tank containing the malodorous leftovers from the chicken-slaughtering process on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has spilled up to 50,000 gallons of material into adjacent wetlands, state …
A huge tank containing the malodorous leftovers from the chicken-slaughtering process on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has spilled up to 50,000 gallons of material into adjacent wetlands, state officials say.
The leak was apparently caused by a failure in a pipe that leads to a valve at the tank, said Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. After the spill was reported on March 6, the MDE water compliance program and Maryland Department of Agriculture launched an on-site investigation, he added.
The cleanup was being handled by a contractor hired by the tank’s owner. MDE personnel were providing oversight and guidance on the removal of the sludge-like material from the wetlands, Apperson said. The agency also will be working with the landowner on restoration of the wetlands after the cleanup is over.
The incident puts fresh scrutiny on the troubled facility. The 3-million-gallon tank on the outskirts of Mardela Springs in Wicomico County drew widespread condemnation over its open-top design and the quiet way in which it was approved in 2019.
Pressure from local environmentalists and the tank’s neighbors prompted the county council to outlaw the construction of future open tanks.
The tank largely contains byproducts of chicken-meat packing: the remaining fats, skin, feathers and chunks of meat. The substance is commonly called “DAF” – a reference to the production process called “dissolved air flotation,” which separates the stuff from other materials.
It may not look or smell pretty, but DAF is valued among many farmers as a nutrient-rich soil additive. The Mardela Springs tank stores the material until farmers need it.
The tank’s owner, Edmond “Biff” Burns,” didn’t respond to messages seeking comment for this story.
A neighbor who strongly opposed the tank’s construction said that the spill was entirely foreseeable.
“There were no requirements for any sort of containment around it,” Lynette Kenney said. “I hate to say we told you so,’ but we told you so.”
Kenney added that she hopes officials now require measures to be taken to protect groundwater from potential contamination. She and several of her neighbors have sent samples of their well water to be tested in the wake of the spill.