MILLSBORO — The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control recently served Mountaire Farms of Delaware Inc. a notice of violation after an excavation contractor damaged piping, enabling treated effluent to make its way into Swan Creek.
The incident occurred April 21. DNREC’s NOV for unauthorized discharge to surface water was dated June 15.
According to DNREC, a contractor excavating a ditch to connect piping from one of the outfalls to the sediment- and erosion-control pond damaged a pipeline, transferring treated effluent from the storage lagoon to a spray irrigation pivot.
Treated effluent was released into the excavated area, entered the new stormwater pipe and ultimately discharged through the new outfall into Swan Creek, an Indian River tributary.
Notified by the contractor of the damaged pipe, Mountaire immediately shut off flow in the area, then notified DNREC of the release and began cleanup activities.
“During construction of our new wastewater-treatment plant in April, a contractor damaged a spray irrigation line as he was digging in the ground,” said Mountaire spokeswoman Catherine Bassett. “The company was pumping water through the pipe at the time because the spray irrigation line was in use. The hole filled with treated wastewater, entered the stormwater pipe and went out the outfall. Our team was notified, and pumps were shut off immediately.”
According to the notice, “Since the release involved fully treated wastewater effluent, minimal cleanup was necessary. Mountaire then repaired the damaged line and performed sampling as required by the Department,” stated John J. Rebar Jr., environmental program manager in DNREC’s Groundwater Discharges Section.
Prior to the spill, the spray irrigation pump house was releasing treated effluent from the storage lagoon to a spray irrigation pivot for application onto a sprayfield at 1,500 gallons per minute. As treated effluent discharged through the outfall from the damaged pipe for about 10 minutes, DNREC estimates approximately 15,000 gallons may have entered Swan Creek.
“Our water testing in Swan Creek revealed no impact to the stream,” Ms. Bassett said.
As required action, Mountaire Farms of Delaware was ordered to provide DNREC with documentation detailing the repairs made to the damaged pipeline within 30 days of receipt of the NOV.
Additionally, under Delaware code, DNREC reserves the right to take enforcement regarding these and other violations by Mountaire Farms. This could include action seeking penalties for past violations; action seeking penalties for continuing violations; action in the Court of Chancery seeking a temporary restraining order or an injunction; a cease-and-desist order and imposition of civil penalties; and recovery of DNREC’s costs and attorney’s fees.
“Notice of Violation can be a prelude to further DNREC enforcement action, which is to say that the Department cannot comment beyond information contained in the referenced Mountaire NOV,” said Michael Globetti, DNREC media relations manager.