Mountaire Farms holds groundwater meeting Jan. 17

Poultry plant officials will answer questions
January 16, 2018

Mountaire Farms will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, at the Indian River Senior Center to discuss concerns about groundwater near the Millsboro poultry plant.

Mountaire employees will be joined by water and health experts at the center, 214 Irons Ave., Millsboro, to answer questions, said Sean McKeon, director of communication and community relations for Mountaire Farms Inc.

McKeon said Mountaire does not believe the recent wastewater treatment system upset is a significant source of elevated nitrate levels in the area. However, as a corporate neighbor with long-standing and excellent relationships in the community, he said, it is the appropriate time to meet with neighbors.

The poultry plant has been providing water to about 80 homes near the plant after Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control cited Mountaire for exceeding nitrogen limits in its spray irrigation system – the company's second violation in 2017. Besides high levels of nitrates detected in August, bacteria found in sprayed wastewater was measured at more than 5,000 times the permitted level. One sample found fecal coliform exceeded 1 million colonies per 100 milliliters. In a previous interview, McKeon said several employees were fired in connection with releasing high levels of nitrates and fecal coliform onto farmland in August.

In December, Mountaire officials canvassed the area around the Millsboro plant, asking 88 residents if they would be interested in deeper wells. McKeon said about two dozen residents said they would be interested. There would be no cost for drilling or maintenance of the new wells if Mountaire decides to move ahead with those plans, McKeon said. The company is also in talks with a private water provider, but McKeon offered no further details.

The Mountaire meeting comes about a week after a Lewes attorney held a public meeting in Millsboro with experts who spoke about the high levels of nitrates found in local well water. On Jan. 8, experts told the crowd of about 150 how high levels of nitrates can cause health issues, and the contamination can lower property values.

Two law firms are signing up clients for a possible class-action lawsuit. Thomas Crumplar of Jacobs & Crumplar said an attorney from his firm will be there. Chase Brockstedt, whose firm is also taking clients, said he expects someone from Baird Mandalas Brockstedt LLC to attend the meeting.