On May 21, 2019 approximately 15 citizens attended the Wicomico County Council meeting to present their concerns about the use of poultry sludge and construction of a sludge storage tank. The following are highlights of what the speakers brought to the council’s attention.
Quality of Life
People would be restricted from enjoying their yards due to the odor and flies. Those who like to exercise along the road by riding their bikes or walking their dogs would not want to do these activities. They would also be reluctant to invite their friends and family to their homes for outdoor activities. Truck traffic would affect the quality of life especially for those families that live very close to the storage area especially since the trucks could arrive and depart anytime of the day or night.
Even though the sludge is approved by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, it cannot be applied to plants that produce food for human consumption. This is an indicator that the long terms effects are not known. Flies and other unhealthy pests will be drawn to the sludge.
This community mostly relies on wells as the main source of water. Tank spillage and over application of the sludge on the fields could pollute our groundwater. The tank will be open at the top and spillage could result if we encounter the very heavy rainfalls that occurred in 2018.
Copies of photographs of dangerous places on Porter Mill and Riggin Roads were distributed to the council members. Tanker trucks would be using the roads to deliver and pick up the product. At full capacity, 500 truck loads are predicted to come to and leave from the tank.
Porter Mill and Riggin Road are narrow country roads with many sharp curves which could result in accidents and both roads will suffer undue wear. Storage would take place during the winter months that generally generate icy road conditions.
The homes near the storage could see dramatic drops in value and may be unsellable. Real estate sales will decline.
Copies of the petition that was circulated the weekend before the council meeting were distributed to the council members. Eighty-one area residents signed the petition. As noted by one person who circulated the petition, every person who was asked to sign their copy signed. (Refer to the "Reason for this Blog" page for the text of the petition.)
The Permit Process
Members of the Neighborhood Action Group (NAG) expressed a displeasure in the way the permit process was allowed to proceed without any input from the community.
On May 27, 2019 concerned members revisited the county council and reiterated their concerns. In addition to the above problems, Maryland’s “Right-to-Farm” provision was discussed by NAG. Specifically, the following passage was pointed out.
“The intent of the right-to-farm laws are to discourage neighbors from pursuing nuisance lawsuits against farmers because of odor, dust, noise from field work, spraying of farm chemicals, slow moving farm equipment or other occasional effects of agricultural production.”
NAG contends that the spreading of poultry sludge is not covered because it is not “occasional.”
In addition, the first “Local Right-to-Farm Ordinance” states
“A Good Neighbor Policy is generally a statement that pertains to those normal activities associated with agricultural or forestry production that are performed during various times of the year. Statements will often provide that such daily activities shall be performed in a manner that will have minimal impact on the environment as well as human health.”
NAG contends that the community did not receive such a statement.