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Poultry Waste Threatens Water and Soil

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

What's that awful smell? It's offal!

The Delmarva poultry industry is a key component of our regional economy, and the Friends of the Nanticoke River have long supported this industry as a part of our rural/agricultural way of life. However, there are undeniable challenges for large-scale animal production in maintaining a balance with water quality and soil health.

A necessary by-product of poultry processing is offal – entrails, organs and feathers of animals used as food. This material is “rendered” into components of pet food, but in this process, wastewater that is high in nutrients is produced.

A major rendering facility, Valley Proteins, located on the Transquaking River, has had an application for increased wastewater discharge pending with the MD Department of the Environment (MDE) for over a decade. In the meantime, it has increased its discharges and continues to be a major source of pollution to the waterway. MDE is now requiring Valley Proteins to take concrete steps to reduce nutrients in their effluent.

The plant also produces a slurry using a process called Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) in which suspended solids in sludge are carried to the surface by air bubbles to form a layer of thickened sludg. This is then trucked to farm fields and added to the soil as a soil amendment.

This practice generates an odor that persists for several days and is reported to cause headaches, nausea, and eye irritation. A 3 million gallon storage tank for this material is being constructed near Rewastico Creek in Hebron, which poses a risk of overflow and spills to that Nanticoke tributary.

The Friends, as do many others, opposes the use of DAF as a direct soil amendment, and we are supporting development of alternative processing to produce a more environmentally benign product. We also support restricting future discharges of excess nutrients into the Transquaking River.

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