Water in several wells near the Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Millsboro, Delaware, contains nitrate levels that exceed the national drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter, the Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) said.
DNREC had been cooperating with the Delaware Division of Public Health to sample water from wells at private residences in the vicinity of Mountaire’s poultry processing plant. Mountaire had recently been cited for wastewater violations involving excessive levels of nitrates.
According to a press release issued on November 30 by the DNREC, wells were tested at homes near the plant as well as on farmland where the company was permitted to spray irrigate reclaimed wastewater.
Mountaire working to improve situation
To help the people whose wells have excessive nitrate levels, Mountaire Farms is providing them with bottled water and possibly other water treatment to other areas of concern surrounding the plant that have the potential to be impacted by nitrate contamination. Some of those residents have already been receiving bottled water, courtesy of Mountaire.
Several weeks ago, Sean McKeon, Mountaire’s director of communication and community relations, stated that the company was working closely with DNREC to correct the water quality situation.
The Millsboro facility was acquired by Mountaire in 2000, and it had some pre-existing issues concerning its wastewater system. The company had worked hard to be in compliance with DNREC regulations, but in recent months people responsible for monitoring the wastewater system allowed solids to build up in the wastewater and allowed water to be released without proper levels of oxygen.
Those employees have since been terminated by the company.
Meanwhile, McKeon said, the company is planning a two-phase plan to improve the situation. The first involves increasing the oxygen levels, increase the biosolid removals and increase its water analysis at the facility. The second phase involves a complete upgrade of the wastewater system in Millsboro.
The company is investing between $30 million and $35 million in the two phases.