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State sampling Sussex wells after poultry plant found polluting groundwater

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State environmental and health officials are working together to sample wells at homes near Mountaire Farms’ poultry processing plant in Millsboro.


The poultry producer was recently cited for excess nitrates in its spray irrigation.

Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said Thursday evening the water in several wells was found to have nitrates higher than 10 milligrams per liter — the national drinking water standard.

Mountaire has started giving bottled water to residents affected by the contamination, DNREC said.


But Maria Payan, a consultant with the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, said she doesn't believe the solution is sufficient — especially for some of the older residents who might have trouble getting the bottle caps off.

"It's not feasible," Payan said.

According to the notice of violation issued to Mountaire, the poultry producer is expected to give residents bottled water and/or drinking water treatment.

Payan says she's met with Mountaire and some of the residents whose wells are affected, to discuss the situation.


“These people are supposed to be protected at every faucet in their house. They’re scared of the water. They’re mortified, because they thought these systems were working," Payan said.

DNREC and Delaware's Division of Public Health are continuing to test nearby wells that may be affected. A spokeswoman for DPH says they have sampled 18 residences and businesses' wells with DNREC and elevated nitrates were found in a handful of them.


Updated at 9:50 p.m.

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