Taft residents fight

District 1 Commissioners David Sanders and Steve Graham discuss concerns with residents opposed to the chicken houses planned in the Taft area during Tuesday’s meeting of the Lincoln County Commission.

A group of Taft area residents took their concerns over possible health risks posed by several planned chicken houses in the community to the Lincoln County Commission last week, asking that officials do what they can to help stop the development.

“I’ve been a real estate agent for five years, and I’ve never had success selling a property near chicken houses,” said Jennifer Taylor, a resident of the county for 23 years now, adding that if the houses reach fruition, property values in the area will plummet. “I know I’m speaking to a farming community, and like I said, I’m from a farm as well.

“I’m not opposed to people having their own business at all,” she continued. “We are opposed to the possible toxins that would come out of there.”

According to Taylor’s presentation, ground has been broken for four chicken houses planned on Old Railroad Bed Road property situated about three quarters of a mile south of the main intersection in Taft. Each of those would house an estimated 45,000 chickens, she said, likely broilers, resulting in the addition of 240 large trucks coming and going from the property every six to seven weeks.

Noting that homes, churches and even the planned new school at Blanche would be subject to health risks posed by the chicken houses, Taylor cited research indicating that runoff from the farms is largely unregulated and leads to contaminants in area waterways. Of particular concern is Limestone Creek that runs behind the property where the houses would be located, she said, adding that watersheds in Lincoln, Madison and Limestone counties could be impacted.

 “We have proof here from people who have done research on it that the toxins from the odor as well as toxins from the litter ... will cause health issues,” she said, holding up pages of research showing organic arsenic compounds are extensively added to chicken feed to improve growth rates by controlling parasitic diseases. Bio-aerosols and air pollutants in poultry houses also pose health risks to humans, as well as area animals, she continued.

“We’re asking you to do what you can to stop this in our community,” she said. “... We may seek litigation, but we’re asking for your help before we go any further.”

An organizational meeting of Taft area residents was held a week ago Saturday, she said, noting that within just a couple of days, the signatures of more than 60 area residents were gathered in opposition to the chicken houses.

In addition, the houses would negatively impact other businesses in the area, including a neighboring farm in the business of boarding horses and riding lessons, and holds charity events for St. Jude.

Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman said that currently there are no restrictions in the county’s planning and zoning guidelines that would prohibit the location of the chicken houses in the rural community.

“There have been at times public opinion that has stopped construction of these, but there’s not anything legally as a county that we can do at the present time,” he said. “This may be something we want to address in the future, but at this time, I don’t think there’s anything we can do. We appreciate you and your expression for the neighborhood there.”

“I think that definitely needs to be considered because there are definitely health repercussions from chicken farming and airborne diseases,” said Taylor.

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