Concerned Taft residents opposing the development of several chicken houses in their community returned to the Lincoln County Commission Tuesday, calling on officials to establish a committee that would put the project on hold until its impact on the county’s public water supply in the area can be addressed.
Ken Wylie, a spokesperson for the large group of concerned residents, said the proposed Tyson operation presents issues that should be thoroughly reviewed and understood before it’s allowed to proceed.
“This subcommittee, including LCBPU [Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities], should conduct the proper due diligence necessary to understand the long-term impact of this operation to Lincoln County,” he said as he submitted the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Wetlands Inventory Map to commissioners and added the county has provisions in place relating to Special Impact Districts (SIDs) that contain multiple references to protecting water systems.
Enumerating those references, Wylie said that such a proposed site “will not be located in an area where it has the potential to contaminate the source of an existing water supply” or within a 100-year flood plain or wetland. Other sections focus on whether the proposed use has the potential for adverse environmental or developmental impacts.
“This Tyson egg production or any other concentrated commercial operation that generates tons of waste containing a long list of carcinogens, bacteria, metals, ammonia, and arsenic must be kept as far away as possible from any source of public drinking water,” he continued. “The concerns of chemicals used and released, dust, fumes, smells, and commercial road traffic are all viable but are overshadowed by this significant issue.
“The number one issue that should keep all of us awake at night is the requirement of our county mayor, commissioners, and the Board of Public Utilities to provide safe, reliable and sustainable drinking water to residences throughout the county.”
The site where the planned chicken houses are to be located in Taft is on and adjacent to the groundwater recharge areas that directly infiltrate 17 subsurface wells in LCBPU’s system, Wylie said, adding, “These wells provide a significant total of the capacity to serve the county needs.”
Continuing, the spokesman said that while water quality is one issue, quantity of water is another – “We have learned our well systems are limited and operating at less than the state mandated capacities,” he said. “We know nine existing wells in the Taft area are currently off-line due the cost required by LCBPU to make these wells meet minimum purity standards. Our existing water supply is already at risk.”
Wylie went on to say that the county needs to only look to Alabama where a recent malfunction at a Tyson operation near Birmingham resulted in the release of chemical contaminants that created a massive fish kill and prompted restrictions on wading or swimming in the river.
“The contamination traveled over 13 miles before reaching the Warrior River,” he said. “ADEM [Alabama Department of Environmental Management] required Tyson to implement a massive cleanup operation, but the damage had already been done.”
Noting that Wylie’s documents will be turned over to the county attorney, Newman said he anticipates addressing the group’s request in July.
“Trust me, this commission wants quality of life in Lincoln County to be as good as it is now and for nothing to jeopardize that,” said Newman. “We have to abide by the Constitution and state laws also, but we’re here to protect Lincoln County in any way that we can.
“If there are actions that this commission decides to take, I guarantee you we will be there to take them,” he added.
Twelve-year-old Arthur Johnson, whose family has lived in Taft for the last 10 years, also addressed the commission.
“I’ve love walking the property with my dad,” he said. “I like looking at the deer, bald eagles, bunnies, and turkeys. I love watching the sunsets and sunrises. What I don’t understand is why – why would anybody want to destroy all of that, to destroy the Taft close community where we all look after each other. Is it for money?
“My daddy says there are lots of ways to make money, so why are Mr. and Mrs. Finley putting stinky chicken houses in our community? My daddy says that is not against the law, but I’m asking, is it the right thing to do? Please, Mr. and Mrs. Finley, please reconsider.”