Mountainaire Farms — the United States' sixth-largest producer of poultry products — has agreed to pay $65 million to residents and perform $140 million of required upgrades to its facilities in Millsboro, DE in a settlement over drinking water contamination.
The settlement ends a four-year legal battle between more than 600 Millsboro residents and the chicken processor, with the former suing the company over an alleged Mountainaire facility failure that contaminated local drinking water with nitrates. Residents claimed that contamination caused them numerous health issues and devalued property
After separately settling with other residents in February 2020, Mountaire will pay out $65 million across an expected 3,000 to 4,000 claims to Millsboro residents near the company's wastewater treatment plant there. Separately, the company will perform $140 million in required upgrades to its wastewater system. Those upgrades were permitted and approved by the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. According to Delaware Public Media, the plaintiffs' lawyer said the upgrades will reduce the nitrates in Mountainaire's wastewater sprayed onto nearby fields under the federal 10 milligrams per liter limit, and that 2017 wells testing showed nitrate levels of between 20 and 100 mg per liter.
A statement from Mountainaire denies responsibility for the damages, but said the company is moving forward with the facility upgrades:
"While Mountaire does not believe that it caused 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 a new wastewater treatment plant to proceed. As part of the agreement, Mountaire has agreed to create a fund to be used for payments to those in the Millsboro vicinity claiming damages as a result of Mountaire’s wastewater treatment practices. The settlement resolves all outstanding class action claims for injuries, damages, or nuisance."
“We are moving ahead with building our new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, which is advancing quickly,” said Phillip Plylar, Mountainaire president. “We’re ready to put this chapter behind us and forge a new relationship with our neighbors moving forward.”