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Deadly species of hemlock recently found in Sussex County by DNREC

Native to Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, poison hemlock was introduced into the United States in the 1800s as an ornamental garden plant.

DOVER (DE) CONTRIBUTED BY DEPT OF AGRICULTURE: The Delaware Department of Agriculture is warning all residents about two deadly species of hemlock recently found in Sussex County.

Environmental scientists have confirmed the presence of poison hemlock (Conicum maculatum) and spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata). All parts of the plants – leaves, stems, flowers, and roots – are poisonous to humans and animals.

Photo Courtesy of Dept of Agriculture | The stems of the spotted water hemlock can vary in color. The dusty color on the stem can rub off and cause illness.

Both hemlocks are in bloom from June through August. As members of the wild carrot family, both plants have small white flowers in umbrella-like groupings. People may mistake these plants for wild carrot, commonly called Queen Anne’s lace, or wild parsnip or wild celery. People who like to forage for natural foods or cut wildflowers are advised to avoid wild carrot-looking plants to prevent the possibility of being poisoned.

Both the poison hemlock and spotted water hemlock were found in wetland areas in Sussex County. Poison hemlock is also known to grow in ditches, meadows, pastures, and the edges of cultivated fields.

Poison hemlock is an invasive biennial that grows from six to eight feet tall. The stems are hairless and have purple blotches. The plant emits an odor, but people should not crush any part of the plant to smell it because toxic alkaline oils can be released, poisoning the person. Leaves are alternate, dark glossy green, fern-like, triangular, lacey with veins running through the tips of the leaf serrations.

Native to Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, poison hemlock was introduced into the United States in the 1800s as an ornamental garden plant.

Photo Courtesy of Dept of Agriculture | Leaf structure of a mature poison hemlock plant.

Spotted water hemlock is a native plant that grows up to six feet tall. The stems can vary in color from solid green or purple to green with purple spots or stripes. The leaves are lacey and fern-like, with veins ending at the base of the notch of the leaf edge.

If residents suspect they have found either of these plants, take a picture and email it to DDA.Marketing@delaware.gov for identification.

Residents should not try to eradicate these plants themselves. Residents should find a licensed aquatic pest control company at https://de.gov/pesticides to treat for poison hemlock or spotted water hemlock. It is recommended that people wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves when working with these toxic plants. The sap can cause skin irritation or a rash in some people, and others may experience serious illness. Mowing the plants is not recommended because toxic particles can be released and inhaled in the air.

Depending on the exposure – direct contact, ingestion, and inhalation – signs and symptoms of poisoning by spotted water hemlock and poison hemlock in humans can appear as soon as 15 minutes to hours and can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, irregular heartbeat, dilation of the pupils, respiratory distress, muscle damage, renal failure, and central nervous system involvement causing seizures, with potential for death.

If a person may have ingested either of these plants or cut one of the plants inhaling the toxic particles, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911.

The identification and eradication of these plants are crucial in meadows and fields where livestock and horses graze. If any part of the plant is ingested, toxicity can occur in animals. All classes of livestock are susceptible to poison hemlock. Ingestion of the plant may lead to death within just 2-3 hours, depending on the amount consumed. Fresh leaves of poison hemlock are unpalatable to animals, so livestock and horses seldom eat hemlock if other feed is available.

Clinical signs in livestock usually begin within 30-60 minutes after ingestion. There is no antidote. When animals ingest the plant, the toxin affects nerve impulse transmission to the muscles, and animals die due to respiratory failure. Animals often will be found dead before the illness is determined.

Did you know these students cleanup Deemers Beach in New Castle every Saturday?

It’s April and April 22nd is Earth Day, which is right around the corner, and there couldn’t be a better time to get more involved in our environment, and these awesome students have been demonstrating exactly that.

NEW CASTLE (DE) BY PHOTOJOURNALIST GEORGE SHEA: 200 Pounds of trash, 100 pounds of recyclables, and 900 plastic pellets. That’s what these awesome Newark Charter High School students have been collecting at Deemers Beach in New Castle, and it was all collected on Saturday.

It’s April and April 22nd is Earth Day, which is right around the corner, and there couldn’t be a better time to get more involved in our environment, and these awesome students have been demonstrating exactly that.

Photo by George Shea For Delaware Newsline | Newark Charter H.S. Students have collected over 200 pounds of trash at Deemers Beach – trash being left by it’s visitors.

Coming to Deemers Beach for more than a month, these students have been collecting trash – trash that’s being left every day by it’s visitors. Plastic bottles, glass bottles, plastic lawn chairs, kites, glass, and fishing string are just a few of the things being collected from this small beach.

I wanted to learn more about these students and the awesome work they have been doing so I caught up with Tami Lunsford, a Marine and Science teacher from Newark Charter High School. Lunsford was with her students on the beach Saturday collecting trash, recyclables, and plastic pellets.

Photo by | George Shea For Delaware Newsline | Tami Lunsford, Newark Charter H.S.

Lunsford is a Marine and Science teacher at Newark Charter H.S. She is also the advisor for the Marine Science Club. She explains that they are working with the University of Delaware, the Delaware Sea Grant, and also the Citizens Science project with the beach cleanup project.

“It’s remarkable, how many people seem to come here, eat here, drink, leave their things behind, or people seem to probably throw things off boats when they’re on the river.” | Tami Lunsford, Newark Charter HS Teacher

When asked about how long she has been involved with Marine Science and what the motivation behind such a field was, Lunsford said it all started for her when she was a student at Christiana High School.

I was an Environmental Science major, Biological sciences concentration, at UD. I earned my Master of Science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, in 2002, and I have taught HS, community college, university students, and teacher professional development since 2001.

As a student at Christiana High School, I was involved in the environmental club and learned about the impact pollution has on natural ecosystems and on human health…. so that was a huge motivating factor for me. The early 90s was a huge time of change here in Delaware for our environment, so the timing was powerful.

I was a UD faculty member when Newark Charter was opening the high school, and I came here and have never looked back. I am passionate about the ocean and life within it, but even more, I am passionate about leaving a positive mark on the world. I have been focused on empowering students to make a positive change in the world (whatever that means to each of them, based on what most motivates them).

Our student leaders in Marine Science Club and in my Project-Based Learning Marine Science course have really kept things moving with clean-ups and projects over the years to make a difference. Some of their work to advocate for change in the city of Newark resulted in bookmarks made by the Newark Conservation Advisory Commission that are now being distributed to encourage sustainable choices!

Photo by NCS | Megan B.

One of her students, Megan B., has been organizing this year’s trips. She said, “I feel like cleaning up the environment is one of the most important things that humans can do at this point. We have put so much pollution out into the world and killed countless animals in the process; it is time to restore the balance of the environment. All of the other life forms deserve a right to live just as humans do. Cleaning up the environment has given me a more cynical view on big corporations and places that use up lots of fossil fuels.”


“It makes me disappointed when people continue to pollute the environment, they live on this planet after all. It amazes me that they fail to grasp that they are destroying the only place where humans can live.” | Megan B., Newark Charter Student

The amount of trash being collected on this small strip of beach is astonishing and it’s all being collected by these students who are part of The Service Project. To date, the students have participated in 15 cleanup projects over the past three years.

Audrey B., another student who is part of the Service Project, hasn’t missed a single cleanup event.

“I think that cleaning up the environment is a really great thing to do for the Earth. I has also made me realize how much trash is around us everyday. For example, I always notice more garbage on the side of the road on the way from a clean-up than on the way to one.”

She added that “It makes me really sad to see all of that trash in the environment, especially when there are garbage cans not twenty feet away. It always makes me wonder what would have happened if nobody had picked it up before it got into the ocean.”

The students range from 7th to 12th grade and trash isn’t the only thing they’re collecting. They’re also collecting plastic pellets which are also known as Nurdles. The students are Handpicking them one by one, and placing them into vials that are then counted and submitted to an organization called Nurdle Patrol, who then tries to determine how many Nurdles are in the environment.

“I love cleaning up the environment! During the pandemic it has helped me get outside, but more importantly, it makes me feel as if I am making a positive impact on the world. Even in a small way, I like to help make the world a cleaner, better place.,” Said another Newark Charter student, Camille V.

She added, “When people leave their trash in our environment it makes me both angry and upset. I do not understand how some people could have so little respect for the world that we live in and that supports us. I believe it is our duty to take care of our environment, not endanger it.”

Photo by George Shea For Delaware Newsline | This Newark Charter Student is picking Nurdles which are made from plastics and harmful to the environment.

According to Nurdle Hunt, Nurdles are not safe for the environment.

“Pellets might also have indirect effects on ecosystems; on the beach, microplastics can change the characteristics of sand, such as its temperature and permeability, which can affect animals like sea turtles that incubate their eggs on beaches.”

They also say that once polluting our environment, they can pose a threat to these creatures and habitats for years to come.

When consumed, the plastic nurdles can get trapped in stomachs, causing ulceration. Animals who consume nurdles, often feel full and neglect to eat real food which can lead to starvation and death. 

Toxic chemicals can also transfer from microplastic to animals that eat them, causing further harm – another route for these chemicals to enter the food chain.

When spilt and not cleaned up, nurdles can find their way into our storm drains and are carried straight out to sea. In the sea they spread quickly and widely, and as a result can be found throughout the world, from the middle of the pacific to the arctic circle.

When asked what people can do when visiting Delaware’s beaches…

Lunsford said, “If you could take a couple pieces of trash with you, then there would be less for us to find every month, the amount of trash we find every month is astonishing.” 

Camille V. said, “I would tell them to respect the beach and not to litter. It is such a beautiful part of our ecosystem and it would be a shame if future generations are not able to enjoy it due to our current actions.,”

Megan B. Said, “Throw your trash and recycling in the proper containers and pick up trash if you see it. Set aside time to pick up trash yourself or do clean ups with friends.”

Audrey B. said, To people who visit our beaches, I would just say to be aware of what you’re doing. When people litter in an area, they’re endangering every animal that lives there. I would also encourage people to spend an hour picking up a beach one day. Everything you do makes an impact, and you will never regret making a positive one. 


One ton of plastic bags will be made into benches by Eco Plastic DNREC says

The benches will be placed throughout Delaware State Parks with informational plaques about the benches and Division’s Carry-in, Carry-Out Trash-Free Parks Program.

WILMINGTON (DE) BY DIGITAL STAFF: Benches made from plastic bags? Really? That’s what Eco Plastic Products of Delaware is doing for the state of Delaware.

Eco Plastic Products of Delaware is a non profit organization that is donating 15 benches that will be made from plastic bags and in honor of Earth Day, Governor John Carney had an opportunity to tour the facility where they will be made.

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin also joined Carney on the tour.

In 2020, the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation converted its plastic carry-in carry-out bags at Delaware State Parks to corn and paper products. Left with an excess of plastic bags, the Division worked with Eco Plastic Products of Delaware, a non-profit organization, to have the plastic bags turned into benches for Delaware State Parks.

PHOTO | by DNREC | Eco Plastic Products of Delaware is a non profit organization that is donating 15 benches that will be made from plastic bags, and in honor of Earth Day, Governor John Carney and DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin had an opportunity to tour the facility where they will be made.

Each bench will be made of 127 pounds of plastic bags – approximately 30,000 bags. The excess plastic bags weighed about 2,000 pounds, the equivalent of about 450,000 plastic bags and enough to produce 15 benches for the parks. The benches will be placed throughout Delaware State Parks with informational plaques about the benches and Division’s Carry-in, Carry-Out Trash-Free Parks Program.

Carry-In, Carry-Out, which was implemented in Delaware State Parks in 1994, asks visitors to take their trash with them when they leave, reducing the strain on limited resources, and increasing the beauty of the parks. The corn and paper bags now used in state parks are available to help visitors participate in the program. This program promotes recycling and has saved Delaware State Parks millions of dollars. It also helps keep Delaware State Parks cleaner for all visitors.

How you can participate in the Christina River Watershed Cleanup

It’s April and the Christina River Watershed cleanup is in action and looking for more volunteers within northern New Castle County, from Brandywine Hundred south through Glasgow and Bear.

CHRISTINA (DE) CONTRIBUTED BY: DNREC, POSTED BY: DIGITAL STAFF: In recognition of Earth Day, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control joins the Christina Conservancy to encourage northern Delaware residents to get outside and safely clean up their communities.

The Christina River Watershed Cleanup campaign is mobilizing volunteers throughout April to pick up trash in their own neighborhoods, on beaches and along waterways within northern New Castle County, from Brandywine Hundred south through Glasgow and Bear.

“For nearly 30 years, DNREC has partnered with the Christina Conservancy to focus volunteer efforts on keeping the waterways and watersheds of northern Delaware clean through the annual Christina River Watershed Cleanup,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “This year, as we celebrate Earth Day all month long, we urge all Delawareans statewide to get outside and make a difference close to home for waterways and watersheds throughout the First State.”

According to a news release, no pre-registration is needed for this month-long cleanup campaign. Volunteers are asked to clean up debris, like cigarette butts, beverage containers, food wrappers and more, that easily end up in waterways and ultimately in the ocean.

While large groups are discouraged, volunteers will have greater freedom to select when, where, and how often their household participates. They can see locations, document their findings and share photos in a new mobile-friendly online volunteer hub at Christina Cleanup Campaign.

All month long, find ideas about how to get involved in the 2021 Christina River Watershed Cleanup on Facebook and Twitter. Volunteers can post photos on facebook.com/ChristinaCleanup for a chance to win a 2021 Delaware State Parks pass. Each photo post counts as an entry. Volunteers can post as often as they like throughout the month.

Within the Naamans Creek Watershed, which is also part of northern Delaware’s Piedmont Basin and the Delaware Estuary, volunteers are invited to participate in an Earth Day Cleanup from April 18 to 24. Participants can select from 34 locations using a Signup Genius link.


[su_tab title=”Collection Tips”]

  • Pick up trash near your home along streets, roadways, and in natural areas and open spaces.
  • Know your limitations and be aware of possibly hazardous areas, including along roadways, streambanks, and steep or slippery slopes.
  • Pack a disposable bag and rubber gloves whenever you take a walk or go hiking, to collect and carry out trash you find along the way.
  • Always Recycle Right. Only recycle clean items through curbside recycling or designated drop-off locations. Items with lots of dirt or grit attached or inside should be placed in your household trash.


[su_tab title=”Avoid doing these things”]

  • Don’t enter private property without permission of the landowner.
  • Don’t place yourself in any danger while volunteering for the Christina River Cleanup.
  • Don’t collect any trash that your household waste hauler might not accept. Tires, construction materials, and metal drums may be unacceptable.


[su_tab title=”More Info”]
For more information, visit Christina River Watershed Cleanup or email ChristinaRiverCleanup@gmail.com.


Dangerous Chemicals Released From Closed Solvay Polymer Facility

Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) leaked from the closed facility after community complaints led to investigation at the facility, according to officials.

MARSHALTON (DE) By Digital Staff: The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced a settlement they reached with Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC to address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) allegedly released from the company’s facility in the Marshallton area of New Castle County.

Officials say they notified Solvay on September 11, 2020, that it is a potentially responsible party (PRP) for the alleged PFAS release and offered the company an opportunity to enter DNREC’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) in accordance with Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act (HSCA) regulations.

021621_Chemicals Released From Closed Solvay Polymer Facility DNREC Says

Solvay is an international company that recently closed and decommissioned its facility located at 800 Greenbank Road in Marshallton. Solvay processed polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) by irradiating the PTFE feedstock, then milling it to a fine powder that was sold as product.

Under the terms of the settlement, Solvay must perform a comprehensive environmental investigation at the site and at potentially affected surrounding areas under the oversight of DNREC’s Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances.

Based on the results of the remedial investigation, an appropriate remedy will be proposed to address any soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater contamination which may be discovered at the site and in the surrounding areas affected by a release from the Solvay plant.

At present, DNREC’s soil, sediment, and surface-water testing has not identified any known potential for health concerns for residents in the surrounding neighborhood or along Red Clay Creek.

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