Mountaire $65 million wastewater suit settlement accepted

A Delaware Superior Court judge approved a $205 million settlement between Mountaire Farms and a group of Millsboro, Delaware, area residents who claimed that Mountaire’s wastewater treatment and disposal practices caused serious illnesses, miscarriages and declining property values.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Mountaire Farms)
(Mountaire Farms)

A Delaware Superior Court judge approved a $65 million settlement between Mountaire Farms and a group of Millsboro, Delaware, area residents who claimed that Mountaire’s wastewater treatment and disposal practices caused serious illnesses, miscarriages and declining property values.

The initial suit was filed in June 2018 on behalf of the plantiffs by law firms Baird Mandalas Brockstedt LLC, and Schochor, Federico and Staton PA.

According to a press release from Baird Mandalas Brockstedt, this is believed to be the largest nitrate groundwater contamination settlement in history.

The settlement includes a $65 million fund for the people whose groundwater and air were allegedly contaminated by Mountaire. The settlement also includes Mountaire agreeing to complete capital improvement programs in process and maintenance at its facilities.

In a statement issued to WBOC, Mountaire said that while it does not believe that it cause any damage to any of the plaintiffs, it chose to settle the case in order to achieve a final resolution and to allow construction of the new wastewater treatment plant to proceed. Additionally, Mountaire President Phillip Plylar said: “We are moving ahead with building our new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, which is advancing quickly. We’re ready to put this chapter behind us and forge a new relationship with our neighbors moving forward.”

The portion of the settlement in which Mountaire offered to pay $65 million to those claiming damages allegedly caused by Mountaire’s practices was initially reported on earlier in 2021. However, it was not until April 12 that Delaware Superior Court Judge Craig A. Karsnitz approved the terms of the settlement.

As early as 2017, Mountaire Farms said it intended to do a complete upgrade of the wastewater treatment system at the Millsboro facility. However, at the time, the company said that upgrade -- coupled with a plan to increase the oxygen levels, increase the biosolid removals and increase its water analysis at the Millsboro facility – would cost between $30 million and $35 million.

“While this litigation was hard-fought, Mountaire took responsibility for its actions and did the right thing for Millsboro by agreeing to upgrade its facilities and compensate affected residents. It is my hope that Millsboro residents can begin to heal and move forward with their lives,” Chase Brockstedt, co-counsel for the plaintiffs said in the law firm’s press release.

Mountaire purchased the Millsboro facility from Townsends in 2000.

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