MILLSBORO, DEL. – Mountaire Farms, a privately owned poultry processor, settled a class action lawsuit against the company for $65 million. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 600 residents in Millsboro, Del., who allege their drinking water became contaminated when wastewater and liquefied sludge discharged by Mountaire seeped into the groundwater on lands near plaintiffs’ residences and properties, a court document states.

“Plaintiffs further alleged that Defendants’ wastewater treatment plant and their spray irrigation and sludge disposal operations emit air pollutants, including malodorous hydrogen sulfide and ammonia that reach Plaintiffs’ residences and properties at levels causing Plaintiffs to suffer health effects and to endure nuisance conditions preventing and devaluing the use of their properties,” the court document states. “Defendants deny Plaintiffs’ allegations but have chosen to settle the case in order to achieve a final resolution of this matter and resolve the uncertainty associated with litigation.”

The complaint was filed in Delaware Superior Court in 2018.

“As we have stated many times previously, elevated levels of nitrates in Sussex County is a very common widespread environmental condition that has existed for many decades, way before the arrival of Mountaire and certainly did not occur just in the past 17 years,” the company said at the time

Additionally, in another case in federal court, State of Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) v. Mountaire Farms of Delaware, Inc., the company agreed to take certain additional steps to prevent future harm to the groundwater, reduce air emissions and provide residents an avenue to report and receive follow up on air pollution complaints.

These additional measures include:

  • refraining from land application of sludges and biosolids pending certain wastewater treatment upgrades;
  • continuing to provide bottled water to certain residents; installing at least 60 acres of phytoremediation; and
  • establishing a process to respond to odor complaints.

These additional measures will cost Mountaire Farms approximately $120 million for incurred and contracted costs, excluding long-term operation and maintenance and contingencies, according to the settlement agreement.