The Bethany Beach area is already at risk of losing the free recycling drop-off at Fresh Pond State Park, due to the tremendous amounts of non-recyclable garbage that is being dumped there.
“We might have to close the facility if we cannot curtail the illegal dumping that has been going on there,” said Mike Parkowski of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA).
But that would suit nearby residents just fine.
Ocean Village is a private neighborhood located across Coastal Highway from Fresh Pond. For them, the “terrible eyesore” of televisions, furniture, construction debris and once, a toilet, is just the beginning.
Ocean Village opposed the recycling center being there even before people started treating the recycling cans as garbage dumpsters, before the lingering food attracted wildlife, which residents said crosses the highway into their neighborhood.
Opened in September of 2009, the Fresh Pond recycling drop-off is located north of Bethany Beach, off Route 1, just north of Fred Hudson Road.
In late June, a new sign warned that the site will close if dumping of non-recyclable items continues. People are being asked to call a hotline to report the license plate number of anyone seen dumping anything other than recyclables there.
Although it’s not the only recycling site with issues, Parkowski said DSWA staff often spends hours, instead of minutes, picking up loose trash on a daily basis. Allied Republic is contracted to collect recycling daily on weekdays.
Overflow occurs, too, during busy weekends, which is different than flat-out dumping.
But whatever is collected there, residents of the beachfront Ocean Village across the highway said they are tired of hearing the 44,000 pounds of recycling collected there monthly.
“The Fresh Ponds site is the only site located immediately adjacent to a single-family residential community such as ours,” the Ocean Village Community Association board of directors asserted. “The need for and the number of recycling sites has dramatically decreased with the advent of universal recycling.”
“The peace and quiet of nearby communities, including the Ocean Village Community, is interrupted daily when seven containers weighing 1-2 tons each are emptied into a recycling transport vehicle which results in horrendous noise,” of the shaking and banging while the dumpsters are emptied daily, they said.
Noise, noise, noise
Ocean Village residents objected to the noise disturbance in an official statement, signed this spring: “The undersigned individuals being reasonable persons of normal sensitivities state that they are extremely annoyed and disturbed with the noise emanating from the daily emptying of the Fresh Pond site and the noise associated with the day and night dumping by members of the public.”
Although it was signed by 100 residents, the board said the document has not been submitted to any state agency.
First written in the 1970s, the Delaware Noise Control Act says, “The people of this State are entitled to and should be ensured an environment free from noise which unnecessarily degrades the quality of their life.”
It defines “noise disturbance” as any sound that “endangers or injures the safety or health of humans or animals; annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities; or jeopardizes the value of property and erodes the integrity of the environment.”
But regarding air pollution, DNREC’s Division of Air Quality no longer implements any noise regulations, as the noise program “was defunded back in the 1980s. The regulation is kept on the books because some towns and municipalities may still rely on it,” wrote Michael Globetti of Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC).
Where to put a recycling center
Statewide, recycling centers are found in four state parks, plus schools, town parks and properties and shopping centers.
Although other public recycling drop-offs are located in the vicinity of neighborhoods, Ocean Village (incorporated in 1966) asserts that its situation is unique:
“We were not aware that this site is located as close to a residential community such as ours. The vast majority of sites are located at public facilities, schools, businesses and shopping centers. Sites such as Fresh Ponds [sic] are inappropriate for a beach or any other residential community.”
Fresh Pond is part of a public state park.
The Bethany location filled a recycling gap left when, in 2008, Millville’s Masonic lodge (Doric Lodge No. 30) requested that the longtime public drop-off be removed from its property, for reasons ranging from traffic congestion to material blown into neighbors’ yards.
Then-state Rep. Gerald Hocker Sr. personally helped the kickstart the Bethany site.
“We couldn’t get anybody to donate land. So, I thought… the State has an awful lot of property. Why not use one of their sites?” Hocker told Coastal Point in late 2009.
Hocker had said they could hardly expect a private owner to donate land if the State wouldn’t step up to the plate.
“It was perfect,” he said in 2009. “There was no entrance to build. The base was there for the containers and for parking. After it was approved, it was up in a week’s time.”
“DSWA installed a recycling drop-off center … without any consultation with the community. When our Association objected, we were told the site was only temporary until the full implementation of the new Delaware Universal Recycling law, which would provide recycling directly to Delaware residences by their garbage pickup providers,” the board stated. “It should be noted that Ocean Village supports recycling and participates fully in universal recycling,” collected weekly on Saturdays.
But now-state Sen. Hocker responds that he told residents “that when we found a site that we could move it to … I would do all I could to move it. And I have been doing that ever since.
“We’ve done all we can to work with those people,” Hocker said of Ocean Village. “[DSWA is] not supposed to dump it before 9 a.m. … They’ve sent more people to clean up that site.”
Recycling is only dumped between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. — the only site with time restraints due to noise complaints, Parkowski said.
Although people are abusing the center, “Recycling is very important. People want to see recycling, but we have to make it convenient for people to use it,” said Hocker, who is not unsympathetic to noise complaints. “I have a restaurant right in front of my house that dumps [garbage] at 6:30 in the morning. We know what it is.”
He said he feels that the dumping and overflow is only a real problem for about three months a year.
“For months and years, I rode down there quite often. Outside of a few busy holidays, it was very well maintained,” Hocker said of Fresh Pond.
Putting it on paper
“[T]he site is located on Park land purchased by the State and dedicated [solely] as a park. The deed to the property places restrictions on any use other than park land,” the board has asserted. “Clearly, the misuse of park land coupled with the placement of such a site in close proximity to a residential community is highly inappropriate.”
Recycling drop-offs are placed at the sole discretion of the site sponsor.
“It’s DNREC’s property, and they gave us the approval to use that site,” Parkowski said. “If they told us to remove it, we would remove it.”
The original Delaware Seashore State Park lease, signed Sept. 3, 2009, granted DSWA permission to install, maintain and operate a recycling center for a one-year term, renewable annually unless a Notice of Termination is given by either party.
“It’s renewable. They have to keep the site clean, hold us harmless. It’s a basic agreement,” said Patrick Cooper, regional park administrator. “It partners with what we’re trying to do with recycling.”
The lease was accompanied by a hand-drawn map, indicating the location of the center.
The unpaved site is located directly in front of a Route 1 crossover with no traffic signal and no defined turn lane on a 55-mph highway, residents also complain.
“While it is fortunate that no accidents have occurred, we fear that it is only a matter of time until there is a serious accident resulting in injury or death,” wrote the Board of Directors.
At the board’s request, the Delaware Department of Transportation had conducted a brief weekday traffic study, “which concluded that there were no safety violations at that time,” stated the board, which still wants DelDOT to return and conduct a weekend study instead.
People who use center
People actually using the center vary from small businesses that don’t produce much recyclable material to vacationers and part-time residents.
Glenn Miller has used the recycling center for more than a year, as he works for an area construction company.
“We do a lot of different beach construction,” said Miller. “We have to remove a lot of material, cardboard and that kind of thing. So it gives us a convenient place to get rid of cardboard, and it gets recycled. Best of both worlds.”
In July, he broke down cardboard boxes for recycling.
“It’s convenient, because the landfill’s so far inland, and this is convenient right to Bethany Beach,” Miller said.
But he’s seen the mess that frustrates DSWA and locals alike.
“You see it piled up about half the height of the dumpster itself. It’s probably an inconvenience for whomever has to come pick it,” Miller said. “Just boxes, bags, things piled all in front of it.”
So what happens if the recycling center disappears?
“We’re either gonna have to go dump it to the nearest landfill,” Miller said, “or fill up some of our big dumpsters, and that won’t get recycled. It’ll just go in general trash.”
DSWA maintains 61 recycling drop-off centers throughout the state. To find a center or report violations, call the Citizens’ Response Line at 1-800-404-7080. Learn more at www.dswa.com/programs_centersearch.asp.