Millsboro-area Poultry Plant Providing Bottled Water to Area Res - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Millsboro-area Poultry Plant Providing Bottled Water to Area Residents

Posted: 12/01/2017 08:32:00 -05:00 Updated:
(Photo credit: Delaware State News) (Photo credit: Delaware State News)

MILLSBORO, Del. (WBOC/AP)- A poultry processing company in southern Delaware has agreed to provide bottled water to local residents after elevated nitrate levels were found in private wells.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said Mountaire Farms began providing bottled water to residents Thursday after sampling of wells at homes neighboring the company's Millsboro processing plant and its spray irrigation fields found high levels of nitrates. Some local environmental advocates say the results are scary.

"I'm really, really concerned about what we are finding," says Maria Payan with the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. "There are numerous wells that have been compromised and it's not just a permit overage here or there."

State officials said Mountaire also agreed to provide bottled water and possibly other water treatment to other areas near the plant that have the potential to be affected by nitrate contamination. A number of homes closer to the plant already are receiving bottled water from the company. Payan says she's working with a number of the impacted individuals, and says bottled water is an insufficient solution.

"A lot of them are elderly folks," she tells WBOC. "They cannot even open bottles of water. [Mountaire Farms] brought them, I believe yesterday, big containers that they can't even lift and handle."

The plant was recently cited by DNREC for wastewater violations involving excessive levels of nitrates. Officials said water in several recently sampled wells was found to contain nitrates in exceedance of the national drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter. But those with the Division of Public Health say this is a concern, but not an emergency.

"The actions we're taking in terms of recommending bottled water or treated water are simply out of an abundance of caution to ensure the very young or pregnant are protected," says Jamie Mack, the Policy Lead and Technical Advisor of the Delaware Division of Public Health.

Mack says high levels of nitrates in drinking water are only found to be dangerous to babies and pregnant women. While the affected water should not be used during cooking (as boiling it can actually increase nitrates' concentration), Mack says it's perfectly fine for cleaning or bathing.

"When we think about the exposure patterns from showering versus drinking, there's so much less exposure at that point that it's really not a concern at all," he explains.

In response to the violation, DNREC is continuing to work with the Division of Public Health to expand the sampling of private wells that could be impacted by high levels of nitrates.



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