Why say NO to Sanderson Farms in Cumberland County?


Don't Fowl Our Water!


Sanderson Farms is already operating in Texas, What is their established record there?  According to Envrionment Texas: “In 2008, Industrial farming facilities owned by Pilgrim’s Pride (in Mount Pleasant, TX) and Sanderson Farms (in Bryan, TX) discharged over 2.7 million pounds of toxic chemicals into our rivers, lakes, and streams, which accounts for roughly 20% of all toxic pollution dumped into Texas waterways. In fact, these processing facilities were the two largest individual water polluters in the state, surpassing every refinery and chemical plant in Texas.” - Source


The article goes on to say “It’s time for Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms – and other industrial producers – to take responsibility for the massive scale of waste that comes from their chickens, . . . We won’t have clean lakes, rivers, and streams until they do.” Does that sound like a good corporate neighbor?


According to the Wall Street Journal in the article Chicken Litter: The Aerial Hunt for Poultry Manure  “Much of that waste goes untreated and sometimes can make its way into public waterways. Among other contaminants, manure contains nitrogen and phosphorus that in large quantities can cause algae blooms -- green, gooey splotches on the water surface that can deplete the water's oxygen, killing fish and other organisms. And in some cases, the runoff, which can contain E. coli and other bacteria, can threaten human health.”


Please, any county commissioners or public officials reading this, don't take the easy way out just to get rid of the business park property. Fayetteville and Cumberland County are better than this. We deserve good water, and a quality of life that is not marred by all the problems that come with a company like this. We deserve not to worry about our health and that of our children. We deserve not to wonder if the water we are drinking contains pollutants.  Please, hang in there on the Cedar Creek Business Park, eventually the investment will pay off. It will pay off with jobs that not only provide a salaries and taxes but also improve the quality of life for the citizens of Fayetteville and Cumberland County. In other words let's make the Cedar Creek Business Park what it was meant to be in the beginning, something to be proud of, not a major source of problems for our water supply, home values and infrastructure.



A Huge Pile Of Litter


The area around the plant will need to supply over 1.25 million chickens a week once the plant is fully running.


More pounds of litter than the weight of two fully loaded Boeing 747's will be produced EVERY WEEK. According to the poultry industry itself on USPoultry.org the average chicken will produce 2 lbs. (this is a VERY conservative estimate) of litter over it’s 47 day growout period.  What that means, is that if Sanderson Farms slaughters 1.25 million chickens a week, our county and area will need to absorb 2.5 million pounds of chicken litter each week. To put it in perspective that much chicken litter weighs more than the maximum take off weight of  TWO FULLY  LOADED Boeing 747’s. Every single week!


What is in all this litter? It is a mix of poultry excreta, feed that has spilled, feathers, and bedding. According to a study by Clemson University researchers "As an important source of nutrients for crop production, chicken litter may also contain a variety of human pathogens that can threaten humans who consume the contaminated food or water. Composting can inactivate pathogens while creating a soil amendment beneficial for application to arable agricultural land. Some foodborne pathogens may have the potential to survive for long periods of time in raw chicken litter or its composted products after land application, and a small population of pathogenic cells may even regrow to high levels when the conditions are favorable for growth." Source: Microbiological Safety of Chicken Litter or Chicken Litter-Based Organic Fertilizers: A Review – Clemson University Jan 2013


It needs to be understood that companies like Sanderson Farms are not responsible for getting rid of all this waste. Every single major industry in the United States is responsible for properly disposing of the waste they create . . . except chicken and hog processing plants. Mississipi native Joe Sanderson' publicly traded company comes in here to North Carolina, they own the eggs, they own the feed and feed mills, they own the chickens, and they sell the meat. Do you know what the local North Carolina farmer owns? The manure.


This is how large corporate chicken processors get away with so much. They place the burden of handling all this waste on the farmers who raise the birds. These farmers don't have the resources they need to handle this volume of waste. By placing this burden on the farmers the processing company is able to stay within the letter if not the spirit of our environmental laws. If a farmer does not properly store his waste, allowing it to leach in to the ground water that is not the processors problem. If the manure is spread on fields and causes run off pollution to our groundwater, creeks, lakes and rivers that is not their problem either. That is how the chicken industry can legally be the largest industrial polluter of Texas waters.


This is the very reason why in 2005 the Attorney General of Oklahoma filed suit against 14 poultry companies (and won). Oklahoma has faced the problems that we will soon be facing. Please take a few minutes to view the news interview in the video below to see how Oklahoma dealt with these issues.

Several other states have already awoken from the nightmare that is  poultry pollution and made the chicken processors take more responsibility for the waste their industry creates.

Unfortunately, North Carolina has very lax laws regarding proper disposal of chicken litter and very little oversight.

Do we here in Cumberland County need to learn the same expensive lessons already learned in other states?


Wouldn't it be good to take a little time and inform ourselves of issues that have cost other municipalities millions of dollars?  Particularly the issue of nutrient rich runoff from non point sources like chicken litter.




Odor – Good News / Bad News


To their credit Sanderson does try to minimize the odor to the extent possible, and from most reports the processing plants they run in other states do not have the stench that many are known for on most days. However, the processing plant is not the only source of odor in a operation like this. The chicken houses themselves can be the source of a very foul odor, so really the issue is not the odor from one source (the plant) but the 500 chicken houses (CAFOs Concentrated Animal Feed Operations) that will need to be within a certain radius of the plant. What that radius is we don't know right now.

According to Sanderson officials the chicken houses will be closer to Kinston to be near to the feed mill located there. However, there is no guarantee that they will be able to find land in an area that is already saturated with chicken houses. It also must be kept in mind that chickens have a higher mortality rate the longer they are on the truck when being transported to the slaughterhouse, especially in the heat of the summer or on freezing days in the winter.  Since they have to slaughter 90,000 chickens per day it only makes sense for them to locate the factory farms as close to the plant as possible. In short while Sanderson says they will locate the chicken houses near Kinston there is no guarantee of that. Once the plant is built there is no way to stop them from locating as many chicken houses as they want to in Cumberland County.


Please read this link to see what issues some have had living near chicken houses suppling other large corporate chicken processors. In addition chicken houses have fans running constantly to regulate the temperature. This will often vent odor out into the countryside. If you have ever been near a poultry CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feed Operation) that has an ammonia problem you will realize it is more than simply a bad odor, it is an assault. Just imagine our countryside with hundreds more chicken grow houses.



What About the Treated Wastewater?


Sanderson Farms is very proud of their state of the art wastewater treatment plant and the fact that the wastewater they will be spraying has been well treated. They have even won awards for the how clean their wastewater is, and that is certainly good.


However, just because the treated water looks clean and clear does not mean it is safe for our river or safe to drink. This treated water is still very high in nitrogen and phosphorous, both of which are problematic to our watershed. Especially so due to the fact that much of our land (and specifically some of the fields that Sanderson has optioned for spray fields) is very sandy soil. An article "sand is hardly an asset when it comes to protecting groundwater. Sand allows nitrates and bacteria to pass quickly to water supplies below." -Source: Pulitzer.org This article was dealing with nitrates from swine waste but the principal is the same. If we spray 1.4 million gallons of water every single day on these fields (some of which border the Cape Fear river) there is a very real risk  to our groundwater which is 12' deep on average.


Local farmer Justin Smith with 4 year agricultural degree from NC Statue University spoke at the County Commissioners meeting on August 18th.  Justin farms 2500 acres of land in the area around the site of the proposed slaughter house and is intimately familiar with the topography and soil in the area. He brought out at a that the average precipitation in this area is 44-46 inches. If Sanderson sprays the amount they will need to they will bring the total precipitation for these fields to approximately 110 inches per years.



Do Our Officials Have the Whole Story?


Representatives of Sanderson Farms took our county commissioners on a orchestrated tour, and gave them with a well rehearsed presentation of all the benefits they feel company will provide the county. Undoubtedly, they do run a nice operation as far as a chicken processing plant goes. It does seem that there is minimal odor at the plant itself, and they are to be commended for that.  There are many other chicken processors who do not have plants as advanced and professional as Sanderson Farms. However, no matter how you dress it up, a slaughter house is still a slaughter house and a operation of that size that will be using vast amounts of both land and water in Cumberland County, and will also be both directly and indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of tons of waste. Undoubtedly Sanderson Farms shared with our representatives all of the positive aspects both of their company and all the benefits we would receive in the way of jobs and taxes. If that is the only side that they heard it is no wonder that they looked at it in a positive light.


However, one can not help but wonder if our officials were told that according to Environment Texas Sanderson and Perdue alone were responsible for roughly 20% of all toxic pollution dumped into Texas waterways?   Did Sanderson mention that they had 28 effluent violations at six sites in Texas, Missisippi, and Louisianna? Did Sanderson Farms explain to our county officials why the Wilson Economic Development Council was 100% against Sanderson locating there? Did Sanderson tell them of the 40%-100% employee turnover in this type of plant? In short while there are factors that commend Sanderson there are also very valid reasons to be concerned.



Questions our Elected Officials Should be Able to Answer


As residents who will be affected by this plant, we have a right to know the WHOLE story, not just the sanitized version that Sanderson pitches to town officials. How can our representatives truly represent the community without involving those who own land and homes in the area.  We have questions that have not been answered.  Ask your elected officials for answers to these questions.


• If the water table goes down in the area and citizens need either city water or deeper wells who pay for that? Sanderson, the County or the us as homeowners? Is the county willing to go on record that taxpayers / homeowners will not have to foot the bill for a falling water table?


• Are the county commissioners willing to commit to providing clean water for every house that currently clean well water in the event our ground water is contaminated? If so who will pay for this?


• Will PWC be giving Sanderson Farms a better rate than other industrial clients?


• When PWC has to further reduce the nutrient levels in it's discharge due to higher levels in the Cape Fear river who will pay for that, Sanderson or the taxpayers of the City of Fayetteville / Cumberland County?


• Will the pressure Sanderson Farms will be putting on the water table discourage other industries from locating in our area?


• Have our officials studied the problems Alabama has with poultry litter and are they willing to ban the spread of litter between November 15th and February 15th to help protect our watershed?


• What tax incentives is Fayetteville / Cumberland county offering? How long before the county actually turns a profit?


• Are our officials willing to commit to stricter regulation of chicken houses as the  local officials in Georgia did after Sanderson moved in?  If so will they put these regulations in place BEFORE hundreds of CAFOs are built near residences?


• Are our officials willing to require that all CAFO's  be set back 2000 feet from any residential areas as Moutrie Georgia officials did after Sanderson Farms opened in their town.


• Is the county giving up on its original plan of drawing high tech jobs into our area by selling the business park?


• Is Sanderson willing to guarantee in writing that home values (especially those adjacent to their plant / grow houses) will not go down?


• Based on their record in Texas, how can we trust the health of our already ailing river to Sanderson?


• How will hundreds of tons of chicken litter be stored at sites in the county? Will it be covered? Will it be enclosed?


• Is the method of storage voluntary or will there be a law passed requiring enclosed storage?


• As an elected official would you personally build or buy a home next to a chicken processing plant? If you can not honestly answer yes, then vote NO!


• As an elected official would you personally build or buy a home that was next to a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation)?  If you can not honestly answer yes, then vote NO!


• As an elected official would you personally feel safe allowing your children or to drink from wells that are at risk? If you can not honestly answer yes, then vote NO!


As voters we need to let our elected officials know how we feel, and if they don't represent you . . . don't vote for them. It is that simple. Click on the box box below and let ALL your elected officials know how you feel.