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Mountaire cited for groundwater pollution in Millsboro


State environmental officials have cited Mountaire Farms for polluting groundwater near its Millsboro plant.

According to a notice of violation from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Mountaire’s sewage has unsafe levels of nitrogen. 


This water has been applied to spray fields and has caused the groundwater to exceed drinking water standards.


Millsboro resident Martha Wise said it’s a problem that has gone on for too long. She has lived in town for 39 years and has known about high nitrates in her water since 2002. 


“I’ve just been feeling so terrible about all of this,” Wise said. “I say ‘what have they done to us’ and all these years I’ve been here I didn’t have any problems until they brought the plant over from Townsend.”

Mountaire has received 13 citations for its spray irrigation. According to the NOV, the amount of nitrogen in Mountaire's effluent exceeded what they were allowed to discharge by 25 percent. Mountaire also received four citations for agricultural utilizations.


The state will work with Mountaire and the Environmental Protection Agency to give Millsboro residents bottled water and drinking water treatment. 


Wise said Mountaire installed a water softener in her home a few years ago but the water still wasn’t good enough to drink.


Aside from Millsboro residents, Mountaire’s violation is also raising a red flag for some Milton residents battling the planned use of treated wastewater from an Allen Harim chicken plant near their homes.


An agreement between Allen Harim and Artesian Resources Corporation will allow Allen Harim to pipe its treated wastewater to an Artesian-owned treatment facility north of Milton. That water will be sprayed onto several fields in town.

Tony Scarpa is the co-founder of “Keep Our Wells Clean” — a group of residents that has been fighting the facility and Artesian and Allen Harim’s agreement. He said he’s worried about the correlation between polluted water and higher cancer rates.


“How can you have a state with the second highest incident [rate] of cancer in the country and they still want to dump chicken wastewater into the ground that gets into the aquifer that contaminates wells?” Scarpa said. 

Scarpa is referring to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2014 that ranked Delaware second behind Kentucky for high cancer rates.


There is no fine attached to the citations so far. Scarpa says he’d like to see Mountaire and other poultry plants fined for these types of violations.



Mountaire NOV by Delaware Public Media on Scribd

11-07-17 DNREC Mountaire Millsboro Backgrounder by Delaware Public Media on Scribd

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