Egg-Farm Case Eyed by Environmentalists and the Poultry Industry
The poultry industry and environmental groups are closely monitoring a case in North Carolina that could bar the state from using federal water-quality protection laws to control airborne emissions coming from a livestock operation.
Environmental groups contended that the outcome will have national implications. However, the other side asserts that the matter has already been settled by the court.
The focus of the issue is a huge egg farm that has been operating since 2006. It is situated in Hyde County, which borders Pamlico Sound in the eastern section of the state and is about a mile from the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
Rose Acre Farms was granted a five-year permit to operate under the Clean Water Act. Regulators in North Carolina determined that it would not need an air quality permit because its emissions would not possibly exceed federal limits.
Over 3 million birds housed in 12 high-rise hen houses can be found at the plant. Because of its proximity to the 100,000-acre wetlands habitat, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources began to test water samples for signs of contamination.
In 2009, the department found considerable increases in ammonia, as well as other pollutants, in waterways nearby. Similar findings were reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The permit of Rose Acre Farms was renewed in 2010 by the N.C. Division of Water Quality but attached new conditions, which include monitoring ammonia from the ventilation system of the hen houses. The company filed an appeal, stating that the state had no legal authority under the Clean Water Act because it does not discharge into waterways.
N.C. Administrative Law Judge Augustus Elkins II agreed with Rose Acre Farms. The case is now on appeal to the commission, which is set to hear it in January.