According to opponents of the project, locating the proposed Sanderson Farms chicken slaughterhouse in Nash County likely will make it more difficult for the area to continue to grow and recruit cleaner, greener industries. Current law imposes fixed caps or limits on the amount of nutrients in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse River Basins.
"This facility, and the hundreds of new chicken houses required to supply it, ultimately will have long-term adverse impacts on the environment, jobs, and economic development. The nutrient caps are fixed by law. To grow in Eastern North Carolina, we must find ways to REDUCE nutrient pollution. If Nash County persists, the long-term result will be increased water and sewer rates and more costly government regulations, such as even stricter buffer and storm water runoff rules," said Clark Wright, City of Wilson Environmental Attorney.
"For years the State of North Carolina has imposed fixed caps on the nitrogen levels in these river basins," said Mr. Wright. "In response, our cities, towns and industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on improved waste treatment systems - yet most of the scientific data show little or no reduction in total nitrogen levels. Most experts believe that unregulated poultry operations are a significant culprit. If measured nutrient levels persist, we face the very real threat of increased, costly new regulations and rules not only from NCDENR, but also from EPA and Federal Clean Water Act citizen lawsuits. Are we prepared to tell the military, the travel and tourism industry, professional services industries and bio-tech companies that we can no longer invite you to locate or grow in Eastern North Carolina because we don't have any more clean water or sewer service capacity available for you?" added Wright.
"In Wilson, we have spent the past two decades trying to increase the average hourly wage for our citizens. Helping one industry that could limit our ability to locate additional industries or stop our existing industries from growing is not a sound economic practice," said Jennifer Lantz, Director of the Wilson Economic Development Council. "That doesn't make any sense to us at all," Lantz added.
"Our economic growth policies should focus on high tech, low environmental impact industries," said Lantz. "As we see more growth in North Carolina, state government could be required to impose additional, extremely costly nutrient reduction requirements on industries, local governments and farmers on the nutrient discharge levels that are entering our river basins. If you locate another chicken slaughterhouse in a protected watershed you are going to have high nutrient discharges entering the watersheds across Eastern North Carolina," said Lantz.
"The more you look at the scientific facts, the more you look at the environmental impact; you quickly realize it's not worth mortgaging our future water supply and ability to attract industrial investment just for one industry. This is simply the wrong location for this type of project," said Jennifer Lantz.
"What will happen when the Navy wants to expand at Cherry Point and the state can't allow the City of Havelock any additional nitrogen discharge levels? What will happen when New Bern wants to expand their sewer capacity to accommodate a new hotel and housing project and the state says no way because the chicken houses further west are killing our rivers with nitrogen and other nutrient run-off?" said Wright.
"Some will say don't worry, we still have some capacity today, but as the nutrient pollution issues remain unresolved, and so-called 'non-point source' poultry operations continue to grow unchecked, it is only a matter of time before these issues become formidable barriers to growth. These are the questions we need answered BEFORE critical decisions are made. And to be frank, we're not hearing anything from anyone at Commerce or Sanderson Farms – especially when it comes to chicken farms and nutrient pollution," added Wright.
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