According to Gina Burton of Millsboro, her family's land is a major reason why Mountaire was able to build and operate a chicken processing facility across a cornfield from where she lives. Now, Burton and other residents of the area are threatening court action, contending that the company has not adequately addressed longstanding water contamination problems.
Burton says her young son succumbed to asthma, and that other health issues have struck her family.
"I don't know the reason why my family has suffered so many health problems. But living with this every day, all these years, makes me wonder why," Burton said.
Burton is a plaintiff in a threatened lawsuit against Mountaire which gives the company 90 days to fix longstanding contamination issues that affect local water supplies and residential wells. Public Justice and Food and Water Watch are preparing the case. Local attorney Tom Crumplar is assisting the impacted families as well.
"They wanted to make certain that the injuries they have suffered - and they're quite significant - would not happen again," Crumplar said.
The plaintiffs say the plant is located over the region's drinking water aquifer, and that liquid waste material is sprayed onto disposal fields.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act would form the basis for the court action. It's a law designed to provide redress when people are negatively affected by a nearby facility's operations.
"For a long time, people in this area have been waiting and pleading for Mountaire to make a true effort to make the groundwater safe," Public Justice staff attorney Jessica Culpepper said. "Notice to file a lawsuit under RCRA is not only now appropriate, it's absolutely essential to the health of this community."
Mountaire had not returned an e-mail or a call seeking comment as of Wednesday evening.
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