Poultry farm opponents again raise concerns

Opponents of the proposed mega chicken farm that would produce millions of birds every year will be at the Wicomico County Council meeting Tuesday night to again object — and this time more strongly.

On Monday, Krista Hughes, one of the opponents who lives on North West Road, not far from the proposed site of 13, 60-foot-by-600 foot chicken houses – the largest in the county if approved – called for strong public involvement.

About four weeks ago, the council heard the first wave of objection.

“We are going to have a larger amount of people at the County Council meeting Tuesday than we did the last time. We’re hoping to have more people actually get up and speak. The public needs to get on board,” she said.

“We’re going to request that there be ordinances, helpful ordinances. And we want them to please listen to us and not approve this project until further studies have been done,” she said.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Government Office Building.

The farm is proposed for 63 acres near the intersection of Naylor Mill and North West roads. Zulfiqar Ahmed of Virginia wants to build the huge farm. He and his family bought the land last spring, paying $377,000, according to public records. They plan to reside on the premises.

Hughes said opponents consulted Gabby Cammarata, who has an environmental science background. They organized Concerned Citizens Against CAFO, and formed a Facebook page with the same name.

CAFO is an acronym for “concentrated animal feeding operation,” and is used by regulatory offices.

“We have studies that show public health issues and infectious diseases that would be spread by flies. It (the proposed site) is less than a mile from the PaleoChannel. The PaleoChannel is the aquifer for Salisbury and beyond,” she said.

Hughes said she is concerned County Council members won’t listen to objections. “That’s what disturbs us the most.  We have been to the state level. The state tells us it’s a county issue. The county tells us it’s a state issue,” she said.

But County Council Vice President Matt Holloway said opponents are welcome to speak at County Council meetings and have not been told to be quiet.

From his perspective, he said, “I don’t see any more pollution coming from this facility than any other active piece of farmland. The waste, chicken manure, would be removed from the site. There have to be concrete pads (to keep it from seeping into the ground) and it is trucked off the property.

“I don’t see how this facility would be any more detrimental than the north end of Salisbury, the industrial area that sits right over the PaleoChannel,” he said.

Hughes, though, said the idea that it could become contaminated “is very disturbing to us.”

“It’s not that there would only be a few thousand birds. There would be 250,000 birds coming out of those houses every six weeks. The numbers are staggering. If this one goes through,  it makes the next one that much easier,” Hughes said, urging others in the community to attend the County Council meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Holloway said the chicken farm project has “met with the current requirements for county and, from what we understand, at the state level they are going  through the proper procedures for storm water management and soil erosion permits,” he said.

He said as a property rights proponent, he would be very frustrated if, all of a sudden, requirements to put the farm there were changed.

Hughes said some farmers throw carcasses of dead chickens in compost piles and leave them for vultures to eat.  Vultures, in turn, leave droppings.

“The whole process is so disturbing from a health situation. This is a small country road. It’s estimated that 1,200 trucks would be in and out of here in a year, plus feed trucks,” Hughes said.

Holloway said there is a procedure for handling dead chickens and they are not carelessly tossed on compost piles.

He said the Delmarva Poultry Industry has a list of good management and neighborly practices that are recommended, from set-backs to vegetated buffers.

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