Organs, Blood, Dirt...and Drinking Water?
Fact: Mountaire’s chicken processing facility in Millsboro produces 2.4 million gallons of waste each day.
Manure, feathers, carcasses, organs, blood, dirt and massive amounts of wastewater – all of that is stored in lagoons and then the liquid waste is sprayed onto nearby fields.
And the groundwater aquifer below the plant and the sprayfields is the sole source of drinking water for the surrounding community.
We're Suing: Here's Why
The Evidence Is In: Mountaire Sprays Untreated, Contaminated Water on Fields
There has been evidence of serious contamination of the water supply since at least 2000, and late last year state officials found the company had been bypassing a critical phase of treatment-- essentially spraying untreated or under-treated water on its sprayfields. This wastewater tested as high as 5500 times the permitted amount of fecal coliform bacteria and 41 times the safe limit of nitrates.
And it has potentially contaminated up to 80 private drinking water wells at nearby homes.
People living around the plant began experiencing unexplained health impacts years ago, including things as extreme as gastrointestinal illnesses, birth defects, epilepsy, and miscarriages.
Health impacts include things as extreme as gastrointestinal illnesses, birth defects, epilepsy, and miscarriages.
Levels of nitrates in the well water of many homes surrounding the plant routinely exceed those which have been proven to increase the risk of serious health risks, including “blue baby syndrome” and some forms of cancer.
Years of pleading with Mountaire and state regulators has not resulted in adequate enforcement to clean up violations and ensure the contamination will not continue.
Enough is enough
On March 28, nearby residents who have suffered serious harm due to Mountaire’s mismanagement of waste, along with Food & Water Watch, notified Mountaire that they intend to sue if the company fails to stop contamination of local water supplies.
The notice letter explains the expected lawsuit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA gives people the ability to protect themselves from toxic pollution when the government has failed and to force clean-up of their drinking water.
Big Favors for Big Ag
The situation in Millsboro is serious. People need RCRA to hold factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses accountable for polluting drinking water.
Unfortunately, a bill making its way through the House of Representatives seeks to bar people whose drinking water wells have been contaminated by factory farms from filing similar citizen suits under RCRA. Sounds shady...because it is.
Dubbed the ‘Farm Regulatory Certainty Act,” the bill would not prevent the Mountaire suit from moving ahead (as this is a processing plant and not a factory farm), but is still deeply concerning.
First, people whose water has been destroyed by factory farms deserve to use RCRA to fight for clean water. But secondly, the bill could still be amended to include slaughterhouses and processing facilities, and we have good reason to worry that it will.
Congress routinely gives big favors to Big Ag, and Big Ag routinely asks Congress to create new loopholes when it loses in court.
This is Not New
Just last week the omnibus bill contained another handout. This one weakens the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, known also as Superfund.
On page 2023 of the 2232 page spending bill was a rider that exempts factory farms from reporting releases of toxic ammonia and hydrogen sulfide — gases that can cause serious health impacts — into the air we breathe. Reporting of this information is important: in 2008 a Minnesota community had to evacuate after hydrogen sulfide from a nearby manure lagoon caused people to literally “throw up in their driveways."
People living in areas impacted by industrial agriculture have a right to clean water just like everyone else. Citizens living near Mountaire’s Millsboro plant have had to take this matter into their own hands after being failed by Mountaire, the EPA, and the state of Delaware. Their ability to pursue clean water and justice depends on their ability to file a citizen suit under RCRA – a right that could very well be denied to other impacted communities if Congress creates yet another loophole for Big Ag.
Millsboro deserves better. You can help. Stand with the citizens of Millsboro, Delaware to demand that Mountaire clean up its mess and restore clean drinking water to its neighbors.