An accidental wastewater discharge took place at the Mountaire Farms poultry plant in  Millsboro, Delaware, on October 12.

The discharge apparently occurred after heavy rainfall caused an electrical malfunction at the facility, which resulted in the release of the wastewater into Swan Lake, according to a report from the Cape Gazette.

The company contacted the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

Michael Globetti, spokesman for DNREC, said some of the wastewater mixed with storm water, which ran into Swan Creek. No more than 5,000 gallons of wastewater went into the stream, Globetti estimated.

The agency was onsite to monitor Mountaire’s clean-up efforts, and is conducting an investigation on the matter, he stated, adding that action will be taken if it is deemed necessary.

Past environmental concerns

Prior the discharge, Mountaire’s facility in Millsboro had already seen plenty of attention from DNREC. The two entities in July entered into a consent decree that addresses wastewater-related permit violations in Millsboro.

Mountaire, in 2017, had been advised by DNREC that it had violated the conditions of its permits to treat and spary irrigate reclaimed wastewater onto nearby agricultural farmland. DNREC notified the company that it had exceeded allowable levels of nitrates, fecal coliform and chlorine. The company had since stated that it was working to correct the situation.

The decree, which has been submitted for approval in Delaware Superior Court, requires Mountaire to pay a civil penalty of $600,000 and reimburse DNREC $25,000 for expenses incurred during its investigation, according to a press release issued at the time from DNREC.

In relation to those wastewater issues, a group of Millsboro area residents accusing Mountaire of contaminating groundwater with nitrates, endangering the health of those in the area, and devaluing properties, sued the company. Included in that lawsuit is a wrongful death allegation. According to a court document, Kiwanis Burton died after suffering a severe asthma attack while at home and being subjected to odors and air pollution caused by Mountaire Farms.