Washington, D.C. – Today Food & Water Watch, represented by both the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center (“MAELC”) and the Widener University Delaware Law School Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, sent Mountaire Farms, Inc. a notification that the organization is prepared to file suit if the company continues to violate the Clean Water Act at its poultry processing facility in Selbyville, Delaware.
In May of this year, the MAELC conducted a compliance sweep of 50 pollutant discharge permits in the state of Delaware. These permits are issued under the Clean Water Act and allow facilities to discharge pollutants into waterways. The Center found eight of the 50 permits had exceeded allowable levels of discharges under the permits. However, one facility in particular, stood out as the worst offender – Mountaire Farms.
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, the Delaware Department Natural Resources and Environmental Control issues permits to facilities that discharge pollutants into waters of the state. These permits set limits on how much pollution can be discharged from a particular facility. If a facility discharges in excess of its permit limits, it is in violation of its permit and subject to both state and federal enforcement.
Dating back to at least 2011, Mountaire Farms has had significant and continuing discharge violations for the categories of Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Oil & Grease, Ammonia Nitrogen, Total Suspended Solids and Enterococci. These pollutants can cause great harm to aquatic life, as well as threaten public health.
A troubling 94 percent of Delaware's river and streams are not fishable and 85 percent are not swimmable. The St. Martin River ranks last in the Coastal Bays for estuarine health. Delaware can no longer endanger the habitat for wildlife and fish, as well as the drinking water supply and tourism in surrounding areas with the lax enforcement of corporate polluters, such as Mountaire Farms. The "business as usual" model is threatening the recreation of the residents and tourists who enjoy St. Martin and Sandy Branch.
Today, Food & Water Watch has responded to these violations by sending a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue letter pursuant to the Clean Water Act for the facility’s violations of its state issued NPDES permit. “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,” stated Scott Edwards, co-director of Food & Water Justice, the legal arm of Food & Water Watch. “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. Facilities in Delaware need to be held accountable for their permit violations and we are ready to take action when the state will not,” says Hannah Leone, a fellow with the MAELC.
If Mountaire Farms continues to discharge pollutants as it has been, Food & Water Watch is prepared to move forward with litigation in order to protect the health of Delaware’s waters and the safety of its citizens.