SALISBURY, Md.- With the number of proposed chicken houses growing in Wicomico County, county leaders hosted a public forum Tuesday night at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center to answer questions and concerns from the public.
On hand were representatives from the Maryland Departments of Health, Environment, and Agriculture. Those representatives made opening statements to the crowd of several hundred and then took questions that were submitted to the panel before the forum began.
Prior to the meeting getting underway, a crowd outside the civic center held signs and made their voices heard in opposition to these proposed chicken houses. Members of the crowd included people from the group, "Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs." The group has started a petition and brought up various concerns including the possible impact to the paleochannel aquifer if a large-scale chicken farm is constructed on the corner of North West and Naylor Mill roads in Wicomico County.
"Obviously, clean drinking water for everybody is our number on concern," said group member Gabby Cammaratta. "Everybody has the right to clean air and water. But as far as effect, or risking the effect of the paleochannel, is an extreme concern for the entire city and parts of the county."
Inside the public forum, the experts on the panel did their best to address as many questions as possible, including one about the paleochannel. A representative from the Maryland Department of the Environment told the crowd that if a chicken house is properly maintained and operated, wastewater from the houses is not going to be making it into the ground or the paleochannel.
The panel also answered questions ranging from the inspection of chicken houses and possible health effects of living near a farm. However, there was a question that the panel could not answer. Someone in the audience wanted to know why the chicken houses were being permitted to be constructed so close to other homes and neighborhoods. An MDE representative told the crowd that was a local zoning issue. Those zoning issues are something opponents of the large-scale chicken houses have been asking the county to address for several weeks.
Not everyone in attendance at the public forum was opposed to the chicken house projects. In fact, there were quite a few people in attendance who wore pro-poultry farming stickers on their shirts to make their position known.
Prior to the meeting getting underway, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver said he was attending the meeting with an open mind and there was no predetermined outcome of the public forum. Culver, along with other county leaders, were on hand to listen to the concerns and the opinions of the experts.
Next Monday morning, the Wicomico County Council will be holding a special workshop at 10 a.m. in the downtown Salisbury government office building to discuss poultry houses.