Lack of ethics on Ce­cil County Coun­cil

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - From: DAVID NOLAN North East

I pre­dicted the out­come of this CAFO com­mit­tee be­fore it ever stood up on the so­cial me­dia site. It ap­pears that they are go­ing to use the Del­marva Poul­try In­dus­try’s stan­dard, among the low­est of any­where, in­clud­ing Per­due which sur­passes it by 100 feet in set­back dis­tances. For Ce­cil County, our coun­cil is plan­ning on adopt­ing a set­back of 400 feet from oc­cu­pied dwellings. Per­due’s set­back min­i­mum is 500 feet. There will be no study on health im­pacts at this time.

The ac­tions of the coun­cil seem crim­i­nal to me and surely con­sti­tute an ethics is­sue. In a Cit­i­zens Corner in June, Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Joyce Bowls­bey in­di­cated there would be no spe­cial com­mit­tee, “That’s our job,” she said. I was there.

Then shortly af­ter this, in July, the coun­cil can­celled the July and Au­gust Cit­i­zens Corner meet­ings, and an­nounced the form­ing of a CAFO com­mit­tee. The mem­ber­ship was set out in the ad hoc res­o­lu­tion. Then, mys­te­ri­ously, Coun­cil Vice Pres­i­dent Dan Sch­neck­en­burger in­vited the Del­marva Poul­try In­dus­try (DPI) Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Bill Sat­ter­field to be part of the Ce­cil County com­mit­tee. This is es­pe­cially ap­palling be­cause last win­ter when Sat­ter­field’s own sub­di­vi­sion was go­ing to get a four-house CAFO unit, they ral­lied and bought out the rights to the neigh­bor­ing farm and put a re­stric­tion on it that no CAFOs could be built there. And Sat­ter­field’s house was 3,500 feet away. So here is Sat­ter­field, who could not con­vince his own neigh­bor­hood about how safe CAFOs are, driv­ing 100 miles here to Ce­cil County to tell us how safe they are. Does that make any sense in any­one’s book?

The ad hoc CAFO meet­ings were sup­posed to be run by a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, but by de­cree the coun­cil mem­bers were all part of the vot­ing com­mit­tee by what they called ex-of­fi­cio, as out­lined in the ad hoc com­mit­tee res­o­lu­tion. “Ex-of­fico” means they are part of the ad hoc com­mit­tee by virtue of hold­ing of­fice.

Dur­ing the sec­ond CAFO meet­ing, while Cindy Smith, an en­vi­ron­men­tal engi­neer for 35 years, was speak­ing about the large amounts of am­mo­nia that come out of CAFOs, and how fil­ters can re­duce this tremen­dously, Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Bowls­bey made a state­ment that there were chem­i­cals that could be put on the lit­ter in­side the houses to re­duce the am­mo­nia. She went on to say, “I have a son that works in the ...” At that, Sch­neck­en­burger pulled the mi­cro­phone away from her and abruptly changed the sub­ject.

And so it turns out the Ce­cil County Coun­cil pres­i­dent does have a son who works for USALCO and one of their prod­uct lines is a chem­i­cal that is put on poul­try lit­ter to re­duce the amount of volatile am­mo­nia made, de­creas­ing the like­li­hood of harm­ful bac­te­ria.

Af­ter she made this in­ad­ver­tent ad­mis­sion, and we pub­lished this on the so­cial me­dia site, she came back at the third and fi­nal CAFO meet­ing and in­di­cated that she must have had a “se­nior mo­ment,” and that coun­cil were not vot­ing mem­bers of the rec­om­men­da­tions. Al­though that is not what the ad hoc com­mit­tee res­o­lu­tion says.

At each turn as they get caught in the lies, they tell more. All along for 15 months, the coun­cil did not in­di­cate that the coun­cil pres­i­dent had fam­ily work­ing in the field that could put her in a con­flict of in­ter­est.

In ad­di­tion, the lack of due dili­gence is ap­palling. Even the men­tion­ing of these chem­i­cals that Bowls­bey’s son’s com­pany pro­duces makes no sense. Why? Be­cause the poul­try com­ing to Ce­cil is free-range and organic, mean­ing it goes out­side and that these chem­i­cals can­not be used on organic poul­try barns, ac­cord­ing to USALCO. Fif­teen months of study and the coun­cil didn’t know this?

The fact that Sch­neck­en­burger took the mi­cro­phone im­me­di­ately and force­fully changed the sub­ject shows us all he knew the con­flict of in­ter­est all along.

Coun­cil can still do the right thing with get­ting some sci­ence or hir­ing a study to be done. It’s not a one-size-fit­sall. There are highly-ef­fec­tive fil­ters and UV lights that can re­move am­mo­nia, and all the other things com­ing out of these houses, but it just costs a lit­tle more money. In some cases maybe a stand­off dis­tance is enough, and maybe when you are at 400 feet you need to put fil­ters or lights on. We don’t know, and nei­ther does coun­cil. They say there is no sci­ence, and yet they won’t hire any sci­ence. That is ir­re­spon­si­ble. They want to gam­ble on your chil­dren’s health and safety. And by the way, it is true that chil­dren con­sume much more air and oxy­gen that adults for their size.

The so­lu­tion? Fund a study. Find out where risk lies and at what dis­tance, and use a com­bi­na­tion of fil­ters, dis­tance of houses, den­sity, sit­ing, UV lights, and other mech­a­nisms to grow poul­try safely. If we can put a man on the moon 50 years ago, we can prob­a­bly grow chick­ens safely with a tiny bit of sci­ence and maybe a lit­tle money for fil­ters, etc.

This whole CAFO fan is sim­i­lar to the old smoke­stacks and how di­lut­ing the pol­lu­tion or blow­ing it away made big­ger prob­lems. A fil­ter to a tun­nel vent fan is sim­i­lar to the scrub­bers they put on coal burn­ing plants.

Fi­nally, it’s elec­tion sea­son. Not just this one time, but every two years. And this is­sue isn’t go­ing away un­til it’s stud­ied the right way. Coun­cil should fix this once prop­erly rather have a group of 10 peo­ple come to­gether on only three nights af­ter 15 months of kick­ing the can down the road, and de­cide what’s best for Ce­cil County.

This ad hoc com­mit­tee was heav­ily weighted from the start and did not have nearly enough time to study this is­sue. It’s a gim­mick to give Sch­neck­en­burger and his hench­men a way out by say­ing the in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee came up with these idea. It’s gives them the plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity for any leg­is­la­tion. But we all know that coun­cil cre­ates the leg­is­la­tion. You own it. We don’t envy you ei­ther, but it’s go­ing to be your legacy and we aren’t go­ing to let you get away with blam­ing the com­mit­tee.

Sch­neck­en­burger does not want to do a study. Why? He says there is no money.

There was no money for he Wi­comico study ei­ther, and then there study mys­te­ri­ously ap­peared and the au­thors said they did it “on their own time.” Does the Wi­comico County Health Depart­ment charge a dif­fer­ent state of Mary­land than does our Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment? Why on God’s green earth is the coun­cil so afraid of do­ing a health im­pact as­sess­ment?

I think we all know the an­swer and I hope you vote in the June pri­maries.

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