Delaware chicken plant opponents take fight to court

 (Nati Harnik/AP Photo)

(Nati Harnik/AP Photo)

An environmental group wants Sussex County Superior Court to overturn a county board ruling that would allow Allen Harim Foods to convert a pickle plant into a poultry processing facility.

The group “Protecting Our Indian River” is asking the court to overturn the decision by the Sussex County Board of Adjustment to allow the Millsboro facility to move forward.  The board vote 4-0 on November 5th to issue a permit to Harim.

“Sussex County erroneously approved a permit to the detriment of the public health and safety of this community and the environment,” said Cindy Wilton, member of Protecting Our Indian River.  She claims discharges from plant would foul the Indian River.

The group is also opposed to the year-round operation the chicken plant, compared to the former Vlassic pickle plant which was only operated seasonally.  

Chicken is big business

South Korea-based Harim announced plans to move into the plant earlier this year.  They plan to invest $100 million in the facility and hire as many as 700 workers to work at what company officials describe as a state-of-the-art poultry processing, cut-up and cooking operation.  

The company currently operates chicken processing facilities in Harbeson, Delaware and Cordova, Maryland.  The company already has about 1,400 employees, in addition to 270 independent growers and 25 company-owned farms.  Allen Harem purchased the former Allen Family Foods in September 2011.

Chickens are big business in southern Delaware and along the Delmarva Peninsula.  In 2010, Delaware produced 1.6 billion pounds of broiler chickens.  The total value of chickens raised that year in the state was $786 million.

Public hearing rescheduled 

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control had originally scheduled a public hearing on the facility for Wednesday evening.  That hearing has been rescheduled for December 17 at 6 p.m. at the Millsboro Town Hall.  The hearing will focus on DNREC’s plans for Harim to remediate the brownfield site.  

Harim has entered into a brownfields development agreement with DNREC which sets forth the scope of work and remedial activities to be done during development of the site.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.