North East explores water impact of proposed chicken farm
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
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.”
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.
Shelley Evans, who lives in the Villages of Elk Neck, laughs as she reads a recent post on her community’s Nextdoor site.