Delaware Public Media

Center for Inland Bays forms committee to look into Mountaire violations, Sussex groundwater

Jan 31, 2018

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays has formed a committee to help answer many remaining questions around Mountaire’s wastewater violations at its Millsboro plant.

The Center’s Board of Directors launched a subcommittee to look into what happened at Mountaire’s Millsboro plant, why it happened, and how problems could be prevented in the future.

Chris Bason, the executive director for the Center, says these questions go beyond the plant itself: The group wants to know why the state hasn’t enforced anything even though Mountaire previously failed to meet its permit requirements other times before. 

“If we can get some answers to those questions, that will be good for everybody because I hope the answers will lead to changes in how regulations are being done in inspection and compliance,” Bason said.

In September 2015, Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control filed a complaint in Sussex County Superior Court because Mountaire violated effluent limitations at its Selbyille plant.

The center's subcommittee will make recommendations to its Board of Directors, which hopes to recommend regulations to state lawmakers and environmental officials.

Mountaire told residents in mid-January it doesn’t believe its wastewater problems from 2017 polluted their wells. Experts told the public the direction groundwater moves would not interfere with residential neighborhoods near the plant and groundwater moves at a slow enough pace that the August upset could not have affected nearby wells.

In an email to Delaware Public Media, Mountaire’s attorney Michael Parkowski said nitrates are present in the groundwater in all parts of the Inland Bays, and come from a variety of sources:  farm fertilizer, former poultry operations, and septic systems used for sewage disposal.

Even though Mountaire believes its wastewater problems didn’t affect nearby residential wells, the poultry producer offered to dig deeper wells for affected homes, saying they want to be good neighbors. Parkowski said 21 residents have expressed an interest in getting deeper wells so far.

“Mountaire is insignificant in the overall picture and should not be the poster child for addressing the problems in the inland bays because it has experienced a recent rash of bad publicity,” Parkowski wrote in an email to Delaware Public Media.

Mountaire continues to work with state environmental officials on short term and long term solutions to upgrade its wastewater treatment system.