Update: Poultry processor Mountaire takes shots at law firms announcing class action suit

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Mountaire Farms has responded to what it calls a “media blitz” by two firms that announced class action suit over water issues at its Millsboro site.

At a press event on Wednesday, the Delaware law firm of Baird Mandalas Brockstedt, LLC and Maryland firm of Schochor, Federico & Staton, P.A. (SFS), announced the filing of the suit.

Mountaire issued the following statement in response that took aim at what it called a “publicity stunt by a group of opportunistic lawyers.”

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In response to a media blitz staged by the law firm of Baird Mandalas Brockstedt and its out of state partner, Schochor, Federico & Staton, Mountaire has been asked repeatedly to comment on a lawsuit that we have not seen yet. Because we haven’t been served with this complaint, we are unable to react to it in any detail. However, based on the extensive media reporting to date, and the lawyers’ carefully staged and scripted press conference, we fully anticipate that the complaint will assert claims based on thinly researched and hastily prepared reports by paid “experts” that will collapse under careful scrutiny.

Today’s press conference was a publicity stunt by a group of opportunistic lawyers hoping to cash in on a problem that has already been solved through a Consent Decree with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). The fact that there are two out of state law firms, partnering with two local law firms, who are attempting to block the remedies in this Consent Decree, demonstrates the true nature of their motives.

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.

We expect to be served a copy of this lawsuit soon and will vigorously defend the allegations in court as well as thoroughly question the alleged experts. We will have further comment once we have had the opportunity to read the complaint in full.

According to a press release from the law firms, the suit alleges that the disposal of billions of gallons of highly contaminated wastewater and liquefied sludge has seeped into the groundwater throughout the area, causing nitrates and other contaminants to spread for miles and their concentrations to escalate to dangerously high levels. This has contaminated area drinking water wells that have caused Plaintiffs to suffer the health effects caused by the chronic exposure to elevated nitrates and other contaminants and diminished property values.

The complaint seeks to force Mountaire to stop its discharge, establish a clean drinking water source, overhaul and update Mountaire’s wastewater treatment plant to eliminate the discharge of highly contaminated wastewater and liquefied sludge, remediate the soils, and compensate affected residents for the decrease in property values and the health effects caused by the contamination.

The laws firms claimed they undertook an “extensive investigation of Mountaire’s conduct that includes, obtaining and reviewing thousands of pages of documents on Mountaire’s conduct and permits from DNREC, the EPA, the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, the Delaware Geological Survey, and other sources; conducting well testing of over a hundred Millsboro residents; communicating with hundreds of Millsboro residents to monitor for health effects and other damages; and interviewing Millsboro residents and former Mountaire employees about Mountaire’s wastewater practices.”

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