Nonprofit organization targets Selbyville facility

Mountaire Farms may be facing a lawsuit in the coming months, following the receipt of a “Notice of Intent to Sue” from Food & Water Watch.

A nonprofit organization, Food & Water Watch stated in the Aug. 6 letter that they are prepared to file suit if the company continues to violate the Clean Water Act at its Selbyville poultry processing facility.

According to the notice, Food & Water Watch “champions healthy food and clean water for all…” and “stands up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocates for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.”

In May, the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center conducted a compliance check of 50 pollutant discharge permits in Delaware issued under the Clean Water Act, which allow for facilities to discharge pollutants into waterways.

According to the letter, written by attorneys Kenneth Kristl and Hannah Leone, during the check, eight of the 50 pollutants were found to exceed the allowable levels of discharge under the permits.

Mountaire Farms is permitted to discharge pollutants into the Sandy Branch of the St. Martin River under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program, which are issued by the Delaware Department Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC). NPDES permits set limits on how much pollution can be discharged from a particular facility.

According to the notice, Mountaire has been in violation of its permits, dating back to 2011, in its discharge levels of biochemical oxygen demand, oil and grease, ammonia, nitrogen, total suspended solids and enterococci.

“Facilities in Delaware need to be held accountable for their permit violations, and we are ready to take action when the State will not,” said Hannah Leone, a fellow with the MAELC, in a statement last week.

If the violations are not corrected within 60 days, the letter states, Food & Water Watch “intends to file suit seeking civil penalties, injunction relief, attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.”

The letter noted that Food & Water Watch would “be willing to discuss effective remedies for the violations” and welcome discussion.

“Companies like Mountaire contribute significantly to ongoing water-pollution problems throughout their integrated and unsustainable system of meat production, from the contract farms where the chickens are raised to these facilities where they are slaughtered and processed,” said Scott Edwards, co-director of Food & Water Justice, the legal arm of Food & Water Watch, in a statement released last week.

“As is the case here, our state and federal officials rarely hold these companies accountable for their polluting practices, so it’s up to citizens to enforce the law and protect their waterways and communities.”

“Our goal is not only to ensure that Mountaire Farms takes the necessary steps to get back into compliance with its NPDES permit, but also that the facility is penalized for its damage to the environment over the course of the past five years.”