MILLSBORO, Del.- Attorneys on Monday announced a?$205 million?settlement has been reached?with Mountaire and a group of neighbors to resolve all remaining issues related to the 2017 upset that occurred at?the poultry company's?wastewater treatment plant outside of Millsboro. Attorneys in the case reached the agreement last December, but it wasn’t final until the court approved.
The?plaintiffs' attorneys, Baird, Mandalas, and Brockstedt, of Delaware, and Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A., of Maryland, said in a Monday afternoon press conference that?this settlement is believed to be the largest nitrate groundwater contamination settlement in history.?
The plaintiffs' lawsuit alleged that groundwater contamination and air pollution, dating back to 2017, were a direct result of?Mountaire’s wastewater disposal practices, which violated accepted state and federal standards.? The?lawsuit?claimed that Mountaire's practices?included the spraying of inadequately treated wastewater and field application of sludge containing excessively high levels of nitrogen well beyond the legal limits. The?lawsuit further?alleged that residents of the Millsboro area suffered serious health issues from nitrate exposure including cancer, miscarriages, and stomach ailments, as well as significant losses in property values.?
The settlement will create a $65 million fund for those residents?who claimed their groundwater and air were contaminated by Mountaire. The settlement was approved by Delaware Superior Court Judge Craig A. Karsnitz on?Monday.?
The plaintiffs' attorneys also announced that in a related action in Delaware federal district court, Mountaire agreed to spend?an additional $140 million for upgrades and maintenance at Mountaire’s facilities, which will make the plant environmentally-compliant.
“We are grateful that we were able to reach a resolution for the people of Millsboro who for almost 20 years have been exposed to poultry processing waste by Mountaire,” said Chase Brockstedt, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.? “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.”
Mountaire said in a statement that while it 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?the new wastewater treatment plant to proceed.?
Both Mountaire and the plaintiffs' attorneys?said the settlement resolves all outstanding class action claims for injuries, damages, or nuisance.
Mountaire?also noted that in 2019, it resolved all issues with a separate group of plaintiffs.?
“We are moving ahead with building our new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, which is advancing quickly,” said Phillip Plylar, president of the Mountaire. “We’re ready to put this chapter behind us and forge a new relationship with our neighbors moving forward.”
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued construction and operation permits to Mountaire in January to begin construction of the new wastewater treatment plant.