Mechanical failure cited as cause; one of many chapters in Mountaire's history of environmental violations in Sussex.

Between 750,000 and 1 million gallons of partially treated wastewater were accidentally released onto the ground at Mountaire Farms’ Millsboro facility on Wednesday, February 13.

According to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the release was discovered around 5 a.m. and was contained onsite, before reaching nearby Swann Creek.

“DNREC has directed Mountaire Farms to take all appropriate steps to mitigate this release and minimize any adverse impacts to the environment,” DNREC officials said in a statement. 

Mountaire reported to DNREC that the release was the result of a “mechanical failure of a wastewater system component” and claimed that there was “absolutely no risk to our employees, to the public, or to the environment as a result of this release.”

Pumps were used to retrieve the water and return it to treatment and the affected soil was treated with lime.

“The treated wastewater was in the end stages of treatment. The only steps left were clarification and chlorination,” said Mountaire Communications Director Catherine Bassett.

According to Bassett, the welding on a pipe failed.

“We are working with the contractor who was responsible for the work to do a thorough inspection of the system,” she said.

That system is one of the interim measures put in place by Mountaire to reduce nitrogen levels in treated wastewater while an entirely new treatment system is built. The February 13 incident is the latest of many chapters in Mountaire’s history of environmental violations in Sussex.

Most recently, DNREC and Mountaire reached an agreement with a consent decree in June 2018 after they were found to have committed dozens of permit violations in Millsboro in late summer 2017.

Since then, two lawsuits have since been filed against Mountaire on behalf of hundreds of complainants. You can read about those lawsuits here and here.