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Center for the Inland Bays reacts to Mountaire settlement

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Courtesy of Mountaire Farms
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The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays supports the recent court settlement between Mountaire Farms and Millsboro area residents over water pollution. But the Center says the agreement could have done more to reduce further pollution.    

The Center has been involved in the lawsuit since it was filed following a 2017 failure at Mountaire’s wastewater treatment facility.

The settlement requires Mountaire to pay $65 million to affected residents and $140 million in upgrades to the facility.

Center for the Inland Bays Executive Director Chris Bason praises the payout for residents, but notes the final consent decree between Mountaire and the state requires the poultry producer to spray wastewater onto nearby fields with less than the federally recommended drinking water standard 10 milligrams of nitrogen per liter. He says the healthy standard for nearby waterways is 1 mg per liter.

“It does not require the protections needed for the river and the creek to have healthy water quality, and that’s because the nitrogen limit is too high for the amount of wastewater applied to the land and the fact that the wastewater is being applied during the non-growing season where there’s no plants on the field to uptake the nutrients,” said Bason.     

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they expect the upgrades will allow the facility to put out water with between three and five milligrams of nitrogen per liter.

Still Bason says the nearby water bodies will eventually heal, but adds decades of pollution will take decades to flush out. He says he is hopeful Mountaire will be open to additional measures to protect the Indian River not required in the consent decree.

“I think there are things that can be done on the property if the company is willing to do them in terms of stream restoration and additional buffers. There’s always more that can be done,” said Bason. “And there’s things that can be done off site by the company to mitigate some of the impacts, such as land preservation and restoration.”     

The Center made recommendations on the consent decree as it was still being considered a year ago. The Center also addressed permits issued by DNREC for the facility upgrades issued in February. He says some were approved, like required limits on phosphorous pollution, but others did not get taken up, like impact assessments of the permitted discharge on the water’s quality.

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