Motion to Intervene Filed Against Mountaire Farms-DNREC Consent - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Motion to Intervene Filed Against Mountaire Farms-DNREC Consent Decree

Posted: Jun 06, 2018 10:42 AM Updated:

MILLSBORO, Del.- Local law firm Baird Mandalas Brockstedt has filed a motion to intervene and formal objection against a consent decree between the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Mountaire Farms.

The lawfirm's filing in Delaware Superior Court states the consent decree is "wholly inadequate" and that it fails to address issues that led to Mountaire's wastewater upset last fall. The firm argues that the consent decree does not require Mountaire meet the nitrate drinking water standard set by the EPA, does not provide an absolute requirement for a public water system and that the proposed public water system does not address groundwater contamination for many, including 500 of the firm's clients.

In a statement to WBOC, Mountaire Farms says the law firm's motion is filled with baseless allegations and the company will "vigorously oppose" it.

"This attempt by plaintiffs’ lawyers to intervene has nothing to do with the health and safety of Millsboro citizens," the statement reads in part. "This motion to intervene is nothing more than an attempt to corrupt the regulatory process in order to further the plaintiff’s lawyers separate agenda, and will serve only to slow the process of upgrading and improving our wastewater treatment facility.”

In the statement, Mountaire defends the consent decree as a carefully negotiated agreement with Delaware's chief environmental regulator, DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin and a variety of scientists, engineers, and consultants, including some working with Mountaire to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant. 

In the filing, Baird Mandalas Brockstedt states it reached out to DNREC multiple times in May, offering up its environmental experts and consultants the firm is utilizing during its investigation into the contamination. The firm states it sent a letter and four follow up emails to DNREC went unanswered.

“It is unfortunate that DNREC ignored our invitation to make our environmental experts and consultants available to assist in the process of creating a solution," says attorney Chase Brockstedt. "We have invested a substantial amount of time and resources to understand the scope and severity of the contamination, its effect on area residents and create a solution that will provide clean and safe drinking water to the community, force Mountaire to change its wastewater discharge process so that it does not pollute the environment and to clean up its mess."

The firm also states that in its investigation into the contamination, it reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed past Mountaire employees. The firm also states that elevated levels of nitrates were found near Mountaire in 2000, when the company took over the Millsboro plant from its predecessor, Townsend Inc. 

Mountaire has long denied that its wastewater upset contaminated any nearby private wells, citing groundwater speed and widespread high levels of nitrates in Sussex County.

On Wednesday, Mountaire also cast doubt on the filing, stating lawyers "have been actively soliciting clients for months in hopes of cobbling together a class action lawsuit – a lawsuit designed to handsomely line their pockets while leaving little behind for their clients." 

Brockstedt says his firm is holding Mountaire accountable. 

"Not only does that include compensating [clients] for lost property values and sicknesses caused by chronic exposure to nitrates and other contaminants, it includes ensuring that Mountaire is complying with its permits, regulations and industry standards in a way that does not further contaminate the area," he says. "DNREC missed a significant opportunity to have a positive impact on our clients and this area of Sussex County."

DNREC did not immediately respond to WBOC's request for comment on the motion to intervene. 

The motion to intervene comes after Baird Mandalas Brockstedt sent a notice of intention to sue the poultry producer in May, claiming Mountaire violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act. 

The motion to intervene and opposition to the consent decree can be read in the PDFs attached below. Mountaire's full response is attached below as well. 

        

 

 

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