Editorial: January/February 2010
By Marg Land
As you may recall, in the last issue of Manure Manager
(Novemeber/December 2009) I told readers about a volunteer service that
flies over the Delmarva Peninsula snapping pictures of suspected piles
of chicken litter and marking GPS coordinates so volunteers can do
ground visits later to take water samples.
As you may recall, in the last issue of Manure Manager (Novemeber/December 2009) I told readers about a volunteer service that flies over the Delmarva Peninsula snapping pictures of suspected piles of chicken litter and marking GPS coordinates so volunteers can do ground visits later to take water samples.
I ended the editorial with the observation that:
“By concentrating just on poultry operations, they are handpicking the evidence needed to prove their hypothesis. In the rush to persecute (and prosecute), they just might be missing the truth.”
Well, it appears I wasn’t far off.
Not long after that editorial was printed, I received a news brief stating that the Assateague Coastkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance had filed notice to sue Perdue Farms and a Berlin, MD, poultry farm. The threatened lawsuit involved a suspected mound of poultry litter located on the Hudson Farm that the environmental groups allege was discharging runoff into drainage ditches. Those ditches ultimately feed into Chesapeake Bay. The pile had been spotted and photographed during an aerial scouting mission. After photographing the pile, group members visited the area, taking water samples that they report were “100 times their normal levels.”
“With the counts we’ve been getting for arsenic and ammonia and things like that, it’s obvious it’s not dirt,” stated Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips in the Daily Times.
No, the pile wasn’t dirt. And it wasn’t poultry litter either. It appears that mound was actually a pile of Class A, intensively treated biosolids received from the Ocean City wastewater treatment plant. According to news reports, the treatment facility gives the stuff away to local farmers for free for use as crop fertilizer.
Perdue Inc. is now steaming mad and weighing “all legal options” against the involved environmental groups, describing the allegations they made as “reckless and irresponsible.”
According to a statement from Perdue published on Americanfarm.com:
“The Waterkeepers first said they had found piles of poultry litter on a private farm and blamed Perdue for putting it there. The Maryland Department of the Environment proved them wrong. Now they say Perdue put ‘human sewage’ onto that same farm. Their statements are ludicrous.”
Meanwhile, Assateague Coastkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance are scrambling to save their lawsuit, filing Public Information Act requests with the MDE to obtain a copy of the farm’s nutrient management plan and determine what the state officials knew about the poultry operation. As a result of all this wrangling and lawsuit threatening, Ocean City has stopped providing its biosolids to area farmers, choosing instead to truck them to a local landfill for a disposal cost of $65 per ton. According to the director of Public Works for the city, they decided it would be “prudent” not to distribute the free fertilizer anymore.
Well Delmarva farmers, you can always fertilize your crops with poultry litter. That is, until the next airplane flies over.