Mountaire Farms has fired workers at its wastewater treatment plant in Millsboro following the discovery of problems that led to a Violation Notice this month from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Sean R. McKeon, director of communication and community relations for the poultry processor, said newly hired wastewater treatment employees have been with DNREC on resolving problems related to nitrate levels in treated water.
The company determined that wastewater workers were not doing their jobs and decided the change was needed, McKeon said.
The plant uses a spray irrigation system that spreads treated wastewater on nearby fields. Similar systems operate in Middletown and other parts of the state.
According to McKeon, the difficulties were detected by Mountaire late last summer.
McKeon said millions of dollars will be spent to remedy current problems, with an estimated $25 million to be spent on a waste treatment facility that will be superior to similar sites in the state. The company has hired a top engineer in the field of poultry plant waste treatment to design the project, McKeon stated.
The Mountaire official said the Millsboro site came with wastewater treatment issues when it was acquired by the company in 2000 from Delmarva poultry pioneer Townsend. Since that time, nearby residents with wells have been supplied with bottled water.
Recently, Mountaire voluntarily withdrew an application to expand production at the plant, citing difficulties with the wastewater treatment plant.
McKeon said the application could be resubmitted as improvements go online.
Mountaire, a privately held company, last year acquired a former Townsend plant in Siler City, NC as a way to boost production.