A Delaware Superior Court judge approved a $65 million dollars settlement between Mountaire Farms and Millsboro area residents near the chicken processor’s wastewater treatment facility.
The class action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 600 residents in Millsboro, Delaware, alleges that a facility failure in 2017 resulted in the contamination of drinking water with nitrates which caused health issues and devaluation of nearby property. Therefore, the chicken processor will pay $65 million to the affected residents. Last year, the company also settled with a separate group of residents in February.
“As we have stated many times previously, elevated levels of nitrates in Sussex County is a very common widespread environmental condition that has existed for many decades, way before the arrival of Mountaire and certainly did not occur just in the past 17 years,” the company said 2018 when the class action lawsuit was filed.
Additionally, Mountaire Farms will have to spend $140 million in required upgrades to the wastewater system as part of a separate settlement filed in a federal court.
“This is we believe it’s the single largest settlement in a nitrate ground water contamination case, and we think certainly, this sends a message to really all corporations who are polluting the environment that if they don’t comply, they’ll be held accountable,” said Phillip Federico, of Schochor, Federico, and Statin, P.A., one of the law firms on the case.
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In a statement, Mountaire denies causing damage to the plaintiffs. Its President Phillip Pylar says the chicken processor is moving ahead with its new wastewater treatment facility.
“While Mountaire does not believe that it caused any damage to any of the plaintiffs, it chose to settle the case in order to achieve a final resolution and to allow construction of a new wastewater treatment plant to proceed. As part of the agreement, Mountaire has agreed to create a fund to be used for payments to those in the Millsboro vicinity claiming damages as a result of Mountaire’s wastewater treatment practices. The settlement resolves all outstanding class action claims for injuries, damages, or nuisance.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they are expecting between 3,000 and 4,000 claims on the lawsuit. They say the funds will be allocated based on damage assessment by former Maryland Judge Irma Raker.
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