Wednesday 18 July 2018

Waterkeepers' Statements on Chicken House Moratorium

Waterkeepers Chesapeake was among several groups calling for a moratorium on new chicken houses on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in response to Environmental Integrity Project’s report released September 8, 2015, More Phosphorous, Less Monitoring. Waterkeepers Chesapeake and local Waterkeepers released statements:

Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director, Waterkeepers Chesapeake: "Until the poultry industry and the government bodies that regulate it can prove that our waterways, our tourism industry, and the blue crabs and wildlife that define who we are can be safe from any harms of an expanded poultry industry, we must stop the construction of new poultry operations on the Eastern Shore. Waterkeepers Chesapeake is calling on the state to immediately issue a moratorium on new poultry house construction.” Read full statement.

Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastkeeper, said: “The level of industrialization of our rural areas due to the intensity and density of these large scale animal feeding operations prompted residents in Somerset County, in 2014, to ask for a moratorium on all new poultry operations while imploring their elected officials to protect the health and safety of their communities through zoning changes and adoption of health ordinances. The Environmental Integrity Project’s report substantiates the concerns of these citizens that their rural communities are being industrialized without proper oversight, and a moratorium is needed until the situation can be brought under control.” Read full statement.

Timothy Junkin, Director of the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, said: “The Environmental Integrity Project report on phosphorus overloads highlights a profound and worsening pollution problem in Maryland, and particularly on the Eastern Shore.  New chicken houses should not be allowed until strict regulations are in place requiring new operators to dispose of their chicken waste in a way that does not add any phosphorus pollution to the Chesapeake or her tributaries.”





Environmental groups call on state to restore funding for monitoring and consider moratorium on construction of new poultry houses


Washington, D.C. -- Despite the continued over-application of poultry manure to Eastern Shore farm fields, Maryland dramatically cut back water quality monitoring while the industry continues to expand, according to a new report by the Environmental Integrity Project.

The growth of the poultry industry makes it harder to understand why Maryland last year eliminated almost 60 percent (9 of 16) of its water quality monitoring sites that measured phosphorus pollution in rivers that run through the center of the poultry industry and into the Chesapeake Bay.   

 “It is penny-wise and pound foolish to stop monitoring Eastern Shore streams for nutrients while phosphorus builds up in the watershed and the industry keeps building new poultry houses,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of civil enforcement at the Environmental Protection Agency.  “We need to monitor water quality to find out whether efforts to keep the poultry industry’s pollution out of the Chesapeake Bay are actually working.”

At least 200 new poultry houses are permitted for construction on the Delmarva peninsula, including 67 to 70 in Somerset County, Maryland.  This growth threatens to undermine any progress the state might achieve through its June 2015 manure management regulations, called the Phosphorus Management Tool (or PMT).

The Environmental Integrity Project and allied organizations – including the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health’s Center for a Livable Future, Food & Water Watch, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Assateague Coastkeeper – call on Maryland to consider a moratorium on the permitting or construction of new poultry houses until the PMT is fully implemented in 2024 and the phosphorus overload problem is under control.

"The high concentration of poultry waste on the Eastern Shore damages the ecosystem on which human health depends and exposes the people of the region to antibiotic resistant bacteria present in the waste or carried into homes by wind and flies,” said Dr. Robert Lawrence, founder of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. “Continued expansion of the poultry industry will increase these threats to human health and should be stopped."

The groups also call on the state and federal governments to immediately restore funding for water quality monitoring on the Eastern Shore, which is needed to determine if the PMT is working to reduce runoff from agriculture, the largest single source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

“The rural communities of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia could be dramatically altered if hundreds of additional mega-sized poultry houses are allowed,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “We should place a moratorium on the construction of these facilities before our air, water and local economies are assaulted by these under-regulated businesses, many of which are owned by out-of-state interests.” [Read Waterkeepers Chesapeake's full statement]

The new Environmental Integrity Project report, titled “More Phosphorus, Less Monitoring,” indicates that nearly 80 percent of the phosphorus in manure spread on cropland by Maryland poultry operations was applied to soils that already have too much phosphorus, based on the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s criteria.   And almost all of the manure “exported” to other farms stays within the Eastern Shore. 

The data was obtained from state records called “Annual Implementation Reports” that were filed by Maryland poultry operations in 2013, the latest year for which data is available. The reports detail the amount of phosphorus in poultry litter that large poultry operations applied to crops on their land, and how much is needed for plant growth.

An Environmental Integrity Project analysis of the 2013 annual reports filed by 498 poultry operations that raised nearly 277 million broilers revealed that:

• Ninety three poultry operations spread poultry litter containing 886,158 pounds of phosphorus to more than 18,000 acres.  Seventy nine percent of that phosphorus was spread on soils that already contained well beyond the amount needed for crop growth, based on soil phosphorus concentrations.

• Twenty-six poultry operations spread 6 percent of the total phosphorus to 1,312 acres of cropland where phosphorus levels are so high that application of more phosphorus is now banned by new state regulations.

• Three hundred and sixty-one poultry operations exported 215,349 tons of poultry litter containing over 5 million pounds of phosphorus to other destinations in 2013. Of the total phosphorus exported, 73 percent went to other farmers, largely on the Eastern Shore.

During a time when it was developing its new phosphorus management regulations, Maryland in December 2013 shut down 9 of its 16 long-term water quality monitoring stations on Eastern Shore waterways surrounded by the poultry industry, citing federal budget cuts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program.


#MyEastCoast: No Offshore Drilling Social Media Blitz

This Labor Day weekend, take part in a social media storm to say “No Offshore Drilling on #MyEastCoast!” Waterkeepers up and down the East Coast are asking for your help to spread the word that the Atlantic Coast should not be opened to seismic testing and offshore drilling and fracking for oil and gas. When you are out enjoying your favorite beach, take a photo and post to social media with #MyEastCoast!! And tag us on Facebook, @WaterkeepersCP on Twitter & @waterkeepersches on Instagram. Share your story of why we need to protect our East Coast from offshore drilling.

Should an oil disaster strike the east coast, billions of dollars will be taken out of our waterfront communities, destroying the livelihood of thousands of towns and families. Say no to Atlantic drilling and protect #MyEastCoast!

Our coastal and bay towns need healthy communities and economies, not refineries, export facilties and pipelines. Say no to Atlantic drilling and protect #MyEastCoast!

The coastlines of Virginia, Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay are our wealth, providing income to beachside and bayside communities, home to thousands of species, and scenic beauty. We can’t afford to lose it; tell your local legislators to oppose drilling in the Atlantic.

And if you live in Ocean City, contact your city council members and urge them to support a resolution banning offshore drilling.

For more information, go to Download factsheets: Offshore drilling       Seismic Testing