Mountaire Farms has agreed to a $65 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit in which more than 800 people claimed damages allegedly caused by Mountaire’s environmental practices.
The settlement will be subject to a fairness hearing with Delaware Superior Court Judge Craig Karnitz, scheduled for April 12. In the hearing, Karsnitz is expected to review the settlement, hear testimony and make a ruling on whether to finalize the settlement.
According to a report from the Cape Gazette, Mountaire has agreed to conduct plant upgrades and remediation valued at $120 million at its poultry complex in Millsboro, Delaware. In return, the litigants, who had intervened in a federal case between Mountaire and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), agreed to let a consent decree between Mountaire and DNREC be approved.
Phil Federico, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement issued to the Cape Gazette: “We thank Mountaire for choosing environmental responsibility and doing what is right for the Millsboro community. This settlement is a win-win for Mountaire and those we represent. We wish them well with their upgrades and improvement and know they will continue to be a vital part of Sussex County and the Eastern Shore for decades to come.”
Phillip Pyler, president of Mountaire, told the newspaper: “Our sole focus now can be on building our new state-of-the art wastewater treatment, which has been our goal all along. We are ready to move forward.”
The litigation has been ongoing in excess of two years, after Millsboro couple Gary and Anna-Marie Cuppels filed a lawsuit alleging that Mountaire’s wastewater treatment practices had contaminated their groundwater. Eventually 800 people joined the litigation seeking compensation.
While that suit was going on, the plaintiffs sought to have input in a separate legal action between DNREC and Mountaire, regarding a 2017 wastewater permit violation at the Millsboro plant. DNREC and Mountaire had entered into a consent decree for plant upgrades related to the violations, but the class-action plaintiffs did not think the decree was sufficient in addressing the environmental issues.