Landmark $205 Million Groundwater Settlement Approved
Holding Mountaire Accountable to Protect Our Environment
- Over nearly four years, the Firm led an investigation and litigation against chicken processing company Mountaire, resulting in a $205 million class action settlement that was approved on April 12, 2021.
- After local and federal regulators failed to stop Mountaire’s pollution of the groundwater in Millsboro, Delaware, we worked with community members and environmental experts to put an end to the contamination and hold Mountaire accountable.
- This historic settlement – believed to be the largest ever involving nitrate groundwater contamination – includes a $65 million fund for members of the community, $120 million for the necessary plant upgrades and remediation at Mountaire, and $20 million for ongoing operations and maintenance.
Clean water is essential to human health. From pesticides to industrial waste, chemicals that cause harm to humans and the environment are the subject of regulatory controls to prevent injury through exposure. When controls break down, or historically poor treatment methods give way, toxic contamination of groundwater can occur. Learn more.
For over 20 years, chicken processing company Mountaire knew that its illegal disposal practices were polluting the groundwater and air of Millsboro, Delaware. Instead of fixing the problem, the company rapidly increased production and waste generation. This complete disregard for safety created a substantial threat to the people of Millsboro, contaminating their drinking water, causing serious health problems, and diminishing their property values and way of life. Instead of addressing this public health hazard, Mountaire chose profit.
About Mountaire / Poultry Industry
- Founded in 1914, Mountaire is the 6th largest chicken company in the country with its corporate headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. The company generated more than $2.3 billion in revenue in 2019.
- The plant generates about 2 million gallons of wastewater per day, which includes feathers, dirt, fecal matter, blood, flesh and fat, as well as slaughtering, grease chiller, and processing wastewater.
- Companies like Mountaire dispose of the wastewater and sludge left over from wastewater treatment operations through spray irrigating and land application on croplands and forests.
- There are federal and state laws that mandate how waste is handled to ensure whatever pollutants are in it can be absorbed by crops and do not negatively impact drinking water sources and the environment. One example is a federal safe drinking water standard for nitrates of 10 milligrams per liter.
- Our investigation found that Mountaire repeatedly and consistently chose to violate their permits to pad its bottom line.
- Mountaire acquired its processing facility in Millsboro in May 2000 and has since dumped billions of gallons of highly contaminated wastewater and liquefied sludge on lands near residences.
- Despite being repeatedly cited for violating local and federal laws as early as 2002, Mountaire did little to change its waste disposal practices.
- The violations caused wastewater and sludge to seep into the groundwater and spread for miles throughout the community.
- That escalated the concentration of nitrates and other contaminants to dangerously high levels that polluted drinking water wells. In some cases, the nitrate levels were two or three times the federal safe drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter.