Wicomico Poultry Public Forum Held Thursday Night in Salisbury - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Wicomico Poultry Public Forum Held Thursday Night in Salisbury

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

WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. - As the debate rages on over the expansion of the poultry industry in Wicomico County, another public forum was held Thursday night at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury to help educate the public on the issues.

It was back in late March when Wicomico County hosted a poultry public forum, also at the civic center.  County leaders invited members from the state departments of health, agriculture, and the environment to sit on a panel and answer questions from the public.

However, those opposed to the large-scale poultry operations in Wicomico County left the March meeting unsatisfied, believing the meeting was one-sided. So, a handful of local organizations, including the Wicomico County Chapter of the NAACP and Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs, organized Thursday's town hall meeting.  A new panel of experts were invited, along with the previous panel members, and Wicomico County leaders. Three members of the Wicomico County Council were in attendance at the gathering.

Craig Watts was a member of Thursday night's panel, and is a former grower for Perdue Farms.  Watts recently made national headlines when he took part in a video about the poultry industry.  Watts said he has concerns in Wicomico County about the size of the new large poultry houses being constructed.

"With all these new houses going up, what about the existing farmer with 10-, 15-, 20-year-old houses?  I think I would be getting my affairs in order.  This is not good from what I see," Watts told WBOC on Thursday night.

The main purpose of the meeting Thursday was to discuss the potential health impacts on the environment and community from large-scale poultry operations. Organizers of the event hope their message was clear to those in attendance.

"We'd really like to walk away with the idea of a health ordinance," said Gabby Cammarata, of Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs.  "A health ordinance would go one step beyond basic zoning regulations.  A health ordinance would protect the citizens of Wicomico County."

County leaders have said changes to health and safety standards surrounding the poultry industry have to come from the state level.  However, Cammarata said that county leaders can certainly make a push at the state level for the changes and ordinances that some neighbors are looking for.

In recent months, Wicomico County has seen an increase in poultry house construction and applications for new houses. The Wicomico County Council is currently working on new zoning regulations that would cover new poultry houses.  Those regulations could be voted on this summer.

The county also recently released a report from a local environmental consulting firm.  The report outlines the various hazards that the poultry industry poses to the environment and paleochannel.  However, in conclusion, the report finds that if the proper state guidelines are met and best management practices are followed, the potential threats should not be an issue.

To see where new large-scale poultry operations may be built and when the public may comment on those projects, visit this site.

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