Plenty of Debate Remains After Poultry Public Forum - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Plenty of Debate Remains After Poultry Public Forum

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Poultry Public Forum in Salisbury (Photo: WBOC) Poultry Public Forum in Salisbury (Photo: WBOC)

WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. - Hundreds of people flocked to the Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center Tuesday night for the public forum on poultry expansion in the county.  Despite a panel of experts from the state of Maryland providing answers to the public, many neighbors still believe there is a lot of information people still need to learn about the proposed large-scale chicken houses in Wicomico County.

The public forum was put together by Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver who said he attended the event with an open mind.

"I thought things went well.  MDE and MDA came down, as well as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene came down to answer questions that the citizens sincerely needed answers too," Culver told WBOC on Wednesday.

However, not everyone believes the public forum was a success.  Gabby Cammaratta is a member of the of the local group formed by neighbors called "Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs."

"I'm highly disappointed with how the forum went.  I believe it was very biased, very one-sided," Cammaratta said.

Cammaratta added the group may hold its own public meeting in the near future.  She said the local group has contacted various experts and doctors who would be willing to speak on their behalf in opposition to the CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations.  Cammaratta said there were plenty of unanswered questions at the forum including those posed to the panel about public health.

A question that did receive an answer from a Maryland Department of the Environment representative Tuesday night was about the paleochannel and possible contamination from chicken houses.

"That was answered very straightforward that they felt there was virtually no possibility of the paleochannel being contaminated," Culver said.

The MDE representative said there are rules and regulations in place to ensure chicken houses are properly operated and maintained that prevents waste water from seeping into the ground and ultimately, the paleochannel.  However, Cammaratta and the local group disagrees.  She told WBOC the group has copies of research and studies, paid for by MDE, that shows there is a possibility of contamination to the paleochannel.

Another criticism of the event surrounded the questions that were presented to the panel.

"Selective questions," said Rick Green, another member of Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs.  "We saw that taking place.  Where only certain questions were being provided to the panel to answer."

Culver responded and said the questions that were put aside were directed towards the poultry industry's economics or zoning regulations.  And those issues and questions will be addressed by the county council at an upcoming workshop.

Members of Concerned Citizens told WBOC they are not against the poultry industry.  They are concerned with the new large projects that potentially impact their health and the health of others in their neighborhoods.  Group members are pushing the county to look at everything, including new zoning laws, to ensure these chicken houses are done right and that everyone in the poultry industry, and people living around it, can live in harmony.

The county executive told WBOC that every new poultry project that applies to be in Wicomico County is carefully considered.  Culver added a moratorium on new chicken houses is unlikely while the county council discusses future changes or laws regarding the poultry industry.

A special county council workshop will be held Monday morning at 10 a.m. in the downtown Salisbury government office building.  The council is scheduled to discuss poultry houses.

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