Clean water or more chickens - pick one

March 29, 2014

In my opinion, Delaware has to choose between a clean groundwater system, Indian River, Indian River Bay and Rehoboth Bay (aka: the Inland Bays) or growing and slaughtering more chickens in Sussex County. The Inland Bays are already impaired and have been for years; even our own governor states this to be true. The Inland Bays are currently polluted with high levels of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) originating primarily from agriculture and poultry business within the state.

As many people know, another chicken slaughterhouse owned by Allen Harim is proposed at the abandoned and contaminated Pinnacle/Vlasic Pickle Plant in Millsboro. The plans call for 2 million chickens a week to be processed (104 million chickens a year). The U. S. Department of Agriculture states that the “annual [poultry] litter from a typical chicken broiler house of 22,000 chickens contains as much phosphorus as a community of 6,000 people.” Thus the 104 million chickens and 400-plus chicken factory farms associated with the proposed slaughterhouse will contain as much phosphorus as in the sewage of a community of over 4 million people,  over four times the entire population of Delaware. The phosphorus levels produced by the 104 million birds are equal to over 1,000 Millsboro sewage treatment plants.

Delaware shipped an excess of over 40 million pounds of poultry manure/litter out of state in 2013. The additional 104 million chickens will produce at least 215 million more pounds of poultry litter that will have to be shipped out of the state just to keep the poultry litter level status quo. If any of the additional poultry litter finds its way into groundwater, rivers, streams, etc., leading to the Inland Bays, it will only add to the existing pollution. At least 10 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus will likely find its way into the groundwater and local surface waters.

Poultry people and the nutrient management people within the state will tell you they have had nutrient management plans and nutrient relocation plans in operation for years already, and that’s great and should definitely continue. The fact still remains that the Inlands Bays are still polluted even with these ongoing nutrient management plans and efforts.

Politicians from the governor on down have been touting the 700 new jobs that will be created at the new Allen Harim chicken plant. The Mountaire CEO recently stated they could easily take on 300 people at $13.10 per hour with benefits, but local people would not take those jobs. The Mountaire Chicken Plant is less than one-and-a-half miles from the proposed Allen Harim site.

If the locals won’t fill the Allen Harim jobs, they will have to be filled with immigrants. How would this help the local job situation or the state of Delaware?

Most of the chickens processed at the proposed Allen Harim plant will be sent to Korea. The worst-case scenario could be that immigrants take most of the 700 jobs processing chickens that are then sent to Korea for consumption, leaving behind several hundred million pounds of chicken manure/litter/waste for the people of Sussex County to clean up, further polluting the groundwater and Inland Bays. Apparently, the politicians think this is a good idea.

The only people that win in this scenario are the immigrants, a large Korean chicken processor and the people that receive benefits from the chicken processor. The losers in this situation are the residents of Sussex County, the Inland Bays, people outside Delaware that utilize the Inland Bays and all the rest of the people who currently live in Delaware. Any politician or person that is for the Allen Harim chicken plant has to know they are against the protection and cleanup of the Inland Bays and our groundwater. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t add gasoline to a fire and expect to put it out, and in turn you can’t add more chicken litter to Sussex County and expect to clean up the Inland Bays.

People, it’s time to make a choice. Clean up and protect the Inland Bays and waterways, or more chickens. Personally, I don’t think we need any more chickens, and surely we don’t need any more chicken litter in Sussex County. What do you think?

Barry Goldman

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