Mountaire Farms and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) entered into a consent decree that addresses wastewater-related permit violations at its poultry processing operations in Millsboro, Delaware.
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 from DNREC.
However, that penalty can be reduced by 30 percent to $420,000 by offering an alternative water supply to nearby residents. The decree requires Mountaire to seek to make available an alternative water supply through a central water supply company that meets safe drinking water standards. If such a water supply is unavailable, Mountaire must provide dep drinking water wells to the residential property owners.
Mountaire had already been providing bottled water to and offered to dig deeper wells for residents in the vicinity.
In addition, Mountaire is required to implement, or to complete, in a timely manner interim measures designed to improve functionality of the company’s wastewater treatment plant, implement long-term corrective measures to return the wastewater treatment plant to full compliance with the current or future spray permit and land application permits, and provide environmental mitigation at a ratio of 2:1 for the quantity of total nitrogen sprayed on fields in excess of its permit limit. Mountaire also must submit to third-party monitoring of all remedial measures, according to the consent decree.
Mountaire will begin environmental mitigation upon completion of the wastewater treatment plant upgrades. Mitigation involves relocating Mountaire’s shallow production wells to spray fields where elevated levels of nitrates occur in the groundwater, using this well water for processing within the plant, treating the water at the upgraded treatment plant, and finally applying the water to the spray fields in accordance with spray permit requirements to achieve a net reduction of nitrates in the groundwater. The relocated production wells will allow for hydraulic control of groundwater – a “pump and treat” system – beneath the spray fields to assist in capture and treatment of nitrates that may move from potential onsite or offsite sources even after the 2:1 mitigation is complete.