New Castle County unveils comprehensive sustainability plan, seeking community input on priorities

The plan includes nearly 200 items, such as expanding the county’s farmers market program and making more rain barrels available to residents.

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White Clay Creek State Park

White Clay Creek State Park (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

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New Castle County has released its first-ever comprehensive sustainability plan to reduce the county government’s impact on the environment.

The new plan is a continuation of work to cut climate-warming emissions in Delaware’s most populous county. It includes planting 55,000 trees, conserving 250 acres of open space, protecting nearly 2,000 acres of land, creating new parks, and expanding the 100 EV Plugs Plan with 22 additional charging stations.

County sustainability coordinator Kristie Arlotta says the new plan focuses on several fundamental principles.

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“That’s equity, environment, and economy, those are the three basic pillars of sustainability and sort of thinking about equity and economy all encompassed by the natural resources and the resources that we have available to us in our environment,” she said. “We also wanted to sort of break it down by topic areas. So we have six topic areas. We have complete communities, energy, waste, natural resources, climate resilience, and environmental justice.”

Kristie Arlotta giving a presentation
Kristie Arlotta is presenting the first-ever comprehensive sustainability plan to community members at the second community forum in the Route 9 corridor. (Johnny Perez-Gonzalez/WHYY)

The plan includes nearly 200 items, such as expanding the county’s farmers market program and making more rain barrels available to residents.

“We already run like four farmers markets within the county, [and] what I’ve heard from community services is that they’re looking to expand our farmers markets programs,” Arlotta said. Other priorities include extending the county’s Clean Streams Champion program, which encourages residents to take simple steps to protect the county’s waterways. Those steps include picking up pet waste, reducing household chemical use, and not pouring grease down the drain.

Though all the project’s priorities are not finalized yet, Arlotta emphasized the county’s efforts toward energy sustainability. The goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. There’s also a new emphasis on waste reduction, including plans for composting and expanded recycling efforts.

“We’re trying to be cohesive in our goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030,” she said. “The biggest one that we really haven’t thought as much about over the last few years is waste. How can we reduce our waste over the next few years?”

Maintenance, beautification, and pollution control

Community members have had a pair of public meetings to weigh in on the plans and priorities, and a virtual feedback session is scheduled for next week.

Jeanette Swain, a longtime resident of the Route 9 Corridor, spoke at a public hearing Wednesday. She expressed deep concern about pollution affecting both the air and the ground in the area.

Jeanette Swain reading information on a bulletin board.
Jeanette Swain, a resident of the Route 9 Corridor for many years, attended the event, leaving her feedback on the poster boards and expressing concerns about industrial pollution in the area. (Johnny Perez-Gonzalez/WHYY)

“There’s a problem with cumulative impact for pollution, air pollution, any kind of pollution with regards to the overall health of the community. The Route 9 Corridor is a community that has a lot of pollution and it has really easy access to the highways; 495, 295, 141” she explained. “It’s kind of like a transportation area, and it’s very attractive for businesses because of trucking. There’s a lot of trucking around here.”

Swain said part of environmental sustainability should involve street sweeping and road maintenance, which she said are currently neglected. Industrial pollution is a significant issue with highways and businesses, especially warehouses.

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“I live in an area close to Fujifilm which is next to Croda. Fujifilm has had three permits to expand, and they have brought with them a whole lot of climate change pollution, CO2 that was not addressed,” she added. “In addition to Croda next door that makes ethylene oxide.”

Sustainability coordinator Arlotta highlighted the connection to climate resilience and environmental justice, noting plans to expand the existing air monitors in the Route 9 area.

Poster boards showing information
Poster boards are collecting public feedback on the sustainability plan, with numerous requests for improved maintenance of public parks and additional street lighting for enhanced safety.(Johnny Perez-Gonzalez/WHYY)

Despite hearing public frustration during the forums, Arlotta said it’s a step in the right direction to prioritize key issues for the community.

“We want to hear … what the community thinks is a priority,” Arlotta said. “We’re excited to hear public feedback and public input. There’s so much opportunity within the county to be sustainable.”

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