Poultry processor Allen Harim has agreed to a conciliation order with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to stop dumping treated wastewater in streams located near the company’s plants in Harbeson and Millsboro.
Under terms of the order, Allen Harim would no longer be able to discharge treated effluent in Beaverdam Creek, which runs behind the Harbeson plant.
In addition, the order requires Allen Harim to investigate and install stormwater improvements, clean out and repurpose an old anaerobic lagoon as a diversion lagoon for noncompliant wastewater before treatment, and resolve past wastewater violations at the Harbeson facility.
Allen Harim has agreed to pay a penalty of $150,000 and will be subject to penalties for noncompliance with the order.
Tied into the order, DNREC also issued an onsite wastewater treatment and disposal operations permit for Allen Harim’s Harbeson plant. This permit would allow Allen Harim to perform onsite treatment of wastewater before transferring the treated effluent to Artesian’s Sussex Regional Recharge Facility, a 700-acre network of spray irrigation fields and a 90-million-gallon lagoon, which runs along Route 30 between Route 16 and Cedar Creek Road.
The piping system for Artesian to accept Allen Harim’s treated wastewater has already been built, and now that Artesian’s permits have all been approved, pumping can start. Under terms of the order, Allen Harim is expected to implement a high level of treatment to its wastewater, similar to the level of treatment required for golf courses or state parks. Any noncompliant wastewater would trigger Allen Harim’s responsibility to divert it away from the Artesian spray fields and re-treat.
Allen Harim first came under the attention of DNREC in February 2016, when the company was cited for serious wastewater violations at the Harbeson plant. The department alleged that Allen Harim had released polluted wastewater into Beaverdam Creek, a tributary of Delaware Bay, multiple times between 2012 and 2016, which marked a period when the poultry plant was ramping up chicken production. According to DNREC’s 2016 citation against Allen Harim, on a summer day in 2013, the plant discharged wastewater that contained 1.7 million colonies of enterococcus bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, more than 9,000 times the permitted allowance of 185 colonies. DNREC did not issue a fine for that violation until 2016, more than three years after it had occurred.
Allen Harim was supposed to be subject to more stringent effluent limitations starting Aug. 1, 2019. However, Allen Harim was not able to comply due to delays in obtaining an operations permit. According to the conciliation order, Allen Harim committed 15 violations between October 2019 and February 2021 of the state’s ammonia-effluent limitations.
And it wasn’t just wastewater, either; in January 2020, DNREC officials conducted an inspection of the Harbeson facility, finding numerous stormwater violations with spills caused by faulty equipment not reported to DNREC. The order requires Allen Harim to enhance its stormwater management practices at both the Harbeson and Millsboro facilities.
Representatives from Allen Harim did not respond to a request for comment.