North East ex­plores wa­ter im­pact of pro­posed chicken farm

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ ce­cil­whig. com

— Though town of­fi­cials are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing how a pro­posed chicken farm in Zion could af­fect the town’s wa­ter sup­ply, a visit to a sim­i­lar op­er­a­tion in Earleville on Wed­nes­day yielded no new con­cerns.

“We didn’t learn any­thing to­day that would heighten our con­cern,” said Melissa Cook- MacKen­zie, North East town ad­min­is­tra­tor.

The pro­posed chicken farm on Eng­land Cream­ery

NORTH EAST

Road in Zion has caused a stir in the county since the per­mit­ting process first be­gan over the sum­mer. The project calls for four large broiler houses to be built on the 209-acre, agri­cul­tural-zoned site, which is owned by Galen and Crys­tal Horst, who are trans­form­ing their for­mer cat­tle farm into an or­ganic broiler op­er­a­tion on be­half of Per­due Farms.

Sur­round­ing neigh­bors have banded to­gether in hopes of stop­ping the pro­posed farm, which they say will af­fect the air and wa­ter qual­ity of their prop­er­ties, while fel­low farm­ers have de­fended the Horst’s right to farm their land.

But both Cook- MacKen­zie and North East Mayor Robert McKnight have made it clear that the town’s only in­ter­est in the in­creas­ingly con­tentious is­sue is how such a farm would af­fect the town wa­ter sup­ply. Lit­tle North East Creek, where the town draws its raw wa­ter from, runs right near the pro­posed chicken farm.

Cook- MacKen­zie reached out to the Horsts in Au­gust to learn more about the pro­posed chicken farm and was even­tu­ally con­tacted by Per­due, who ar­ranged Wed­nes­day’s tour. In ad­di­tion to Cook- MacKen­zie, Vice Mayor Michael Kline, Com­mis­sioner Paul Stark, Wa­ter De­part­ment Su­per­in­ten­dent Ron Carter and Mark Dob­bins, chair of the North East Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, were all in at­ten­dance.

The group toured the Meck Farm on Route 213 near Earleville and while the farm has only two chicken houses rather than the four that the Horsts hope to build, Cook- MacKen­zie said the ba­sic prin­ci­pals are the same.

“To at least ask some in­tel­lec­tual ques­tions, I needed to see what it’s all about,” she said. “They helped us un­der­stand very much the process from bring­ing them in as chicks to bring­ing them back out.”

Cook- MacKen­zie said she learned a lot and was par tic­u­larly im­pressed by the amount of tech­nol­ogy in­volved, also not­ing that there was very lit­tle smell. The North East of fi­cials were par tic­u­larly con­cerned about the waste process and Cook- MacKen­zie said Per­due was able to walk them through the steps.

“There’s just not a lot of runoff here be­cause there’s no liq­uid,” she said. “That’s not to say things wouldn’t per­me­ate into the ground over the long run.”

While not dis­count­ing the con­cerns of the Horsts’ neigh­bors, Cook- MacKen­zie re­it­er­ated that North East is only in­ter­ested in the im­pact on the town wa­ter sup­ply and, to that end, said the town has more re­search to do.

In the com­ing weeks, CookMacKen­zie said she plans to con­tact the county and the Mary­land De­part­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment to ob­tain the pro­posed site plan and other rel­e­vant doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to how the farm might af­fect Lit­tle North East Creek.

“I al­ways knew this would be a two- part process,” she said. “But noth­ing I saw to­day added to my con­cern.”

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

North East town of­fi­cials toured the Meck Farm in Earleville on Wed­nes­day to learn more about how a sim­i­lar farm pro­posed near Lit­tle North East Creek might af­fect the town’s wa­ter sup­ply.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Shel­ley Evans, who lives in the Vil­lages of Elk Neck, laughs as she reads a re­cent post on her com­mu­nity’s Nextdoor site.

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