Regarding the July 27 letter “DEQ monitors hog farm operations”: We would observe the same cannot be said for poultry. For two decades, North Carolina has treated poultry differently from swine or cattle even though science clearly demonstrated the impact of poultry waste on rivers and neighbors.
A study published this year by N.C. State’s Chris Osburn and others concluded that poultry contributed as much nitrogen as swine in the main stem of the Neuse River and its tributaries. That nitrogen is fuel for algae blooms, which have contributed to two major fish kills on the Neuse already this year.
If poultry pollute like swine, shouldn’t we regulate them equally? Not under current law.
As it stands, N.C. DEQ doesn’t even know where the thousands of poultry-growing facilities across the state are much less how many birds each has or what happens to the estimated 2 million tons of waste they generate each year. That’s because instead of having permits, poultry facilities are “deemed permitted” by law. The sad thing is that all the information above is currently required to be tracked by poultry operators along with plans to show they aren’t dumping on their fields levels above what’s necessary as fertilizer. So permits for poultry wouldn’t be much additional burden on the operators.
The map of animal feeding operations that DEQ linked to in its letter? The over 4,000 poultry-growing operations across the state are not there.
That’s why Riverkeepers across the state partnered with the Environmental Working Group to create an interactive map showing all concentrated animal feeding operations are: swine, cattle and poultry.
Under the current state rules, poultry facilities are also exempt from odor regulations. Again, the lack of a simple permit means that if a football-field-sized factory farm with hundreds of thousands of birds goes up across the street, neighbors have zero opportunity for input.
The poultry industry acknowledged that odor is a problem for neighbors in the Yadkin valley. The industry wrote guidelines requiring new poultry facilities to be set back 1,000 feet from homes and 1,500 feet from churches and schools. But those aren’t the law.
Unlike South Carolina, where such protections are guaranteed by the state, North Carolina allows the poultry industry to set its own rules. Our neighbors and our rivers deserve better.
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the letter.