Mountaire Farms wants to expand the acreage of land it spray-irrigates with reclaimed wastewater from its poultry processing plant in Millsboro, Delaware.

Presently, the company irrigates about 920 acres of nearby farm land, but it recently presented a plan to expand the amount of land it irrigates by about 350 acres, reported the Cape Gazette. Under a permit with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Mountaire is allowed to irrigate 2.6 million gallons of wastewater daily, and it currently irrigates 13 farm fields.

The Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend approval of a conditional use application related to Mountaire’s plans, but a final plan has yet to be voted on. A public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for November 5.

Mountaire Farms is not increasing production at the poultry plant, but the request for a permit to expand the amount of land it irrigates is being made to allow for better load and nutrient managements.

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Some neighbors have taken an adversarial approach to Mountaire’s spray irrigation procedures, and among their concerns are the quality of their drinking water. To alleviate those concerns, the company has offered bottled water or filtration systems, and even to dig deeper water wells for those neighbors.

The company in 2017 also submitted a two-phase plan with DNREC to improve the situation. The first phase involved increasing the oxygen levels, increasing the biosolid removals, increasing its water analysis at the Millsboro facility, and adding more employees to monitor the situation. The second phase involved a complete upgrade of the wastewater treatment system at the Millsboro facility.

Mountaire Farms, according to the WATTAgNet Top Poultry Companies Database, processed 48.97 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken on a weekly basis in 2018, making it the sixth largest poultry company in the United States.