Ocean City Today

Critics flock to hearing on poultry factory farm

Concentrated animal feeding operation worries neighbors
By Brian Gilliland | Apr 26, 2018
Photo by: Brian Gilliland It was standing room only at the Snow Hill library on Tuesday evening.

(April 27, 2018) Besides an overwhelmingly negative attitude toward a proposed large scale poultry operation off Peerless Road in Showell that received preliminary approval from the Maryland Department of Environment in March, residents of Ocean Pines and Bishopville also had complaints about notification and the location of the meeting.

The Assateague Coastal Trust exercised its right to request a hearing with the MDE concerning the farm, which is proposed to grow 130,000 chickens per flock in three houses. That qualifies it as a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, which are viewed as factory farms by the different levels of government.

About 50 people gathered at the Snow Hill Library Tuesday evening to voice their opinions, which were universally against the project.

Residents were concerned about potential runoff from the facility into nearby Middle Branch and the Shingle Landing Prong branch of the St. Martin River.

The facility has been granted a zero-discharge permit, meaning it would not be allowed to dispose of waste products into the air or water besides what it could construe as “stormwater runoff.”  But Kathy Phillips, executive director of the Assateague Coastal Trust, said the problem is the lack of reporting required by the agency along with design elements of the facility that would not hamper the flow of waste products from the farm into the water.

Phillips also opined that since no residence was included in the plans for the farm, no one would be living there and so emergency response, in the case of a hurricane or strong nor’easter for example, could be slow.

According to the MDE, the farm’s stormwater management must be able to withstand a storm characterized as once per quarter century within 24 hours.

Some attendees were also critical for what they called a lack of notification of the approval or the public hearing by the agency, even though for some of them, the waterways they believe will be affected border their properties.

Most attendees who spoke agreed they had only heard about the meeting three or four days ago, limiting the ability to organize. They expressed annoyance that the meeting was 40 minutes to the south in the county seat, Snow Hill, instead of closer to the area that could be affected.

In the end, this was just a public hearing, so no questions were answered though all of the comments were logged for the record and will be incorporated into the file concerning this permit.

Also, as the site was simply granted a preliminary approval, other opportunities to be heard on the proposal are likely.

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