Maryland poultry farms fined for reporting lapses
by Timothy B. Wheeler
Poultry “litter,” a mixture of bird manure and wood shavings, is periodically removed from chicken houses. Growers with large flocks are required to report annually on what they do with the waste.
Nearly one in five large Maryland chicken farms has been fined recently, state regulators have disclosed, because the growers failed to file information required annually outlining what they did to keep their flocks’ waste from polluting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Since July 1, the Maryland Department of the Environment has issued notices of violation to 104 of the state’s 574 “animal feeding operations.” Those are farms that are regulated like factories because of the large volumes of manure generated by raising 37,500 or more birds at a time.
Of those sent violations notices, 89 were fined $250 each for submitting incomplete reports, according to Jay Apperson, a department spokesman. The other 15 received $500 fines for not reporting anything, he said.
The reports, required once a year, spell out how much waste was generated, how it was stored to keep rainfall from washing it into nearby waterways, and what was ultimately done with it. The waste is often spread on fields to fertilize crops, either on that farm or elsewhere.
The fines represent a new, tougher stance by the state. Until recently, regulators say, they have sought to cajole and work with growers to comply with the paperwork requirements of five-year-old regulations that many farmers bitterly opposed — and still don’t think are warranted.
“This is the first time we’re reaching out in enforcement,” said Hillary Miller, deputy director of MDE’s land management administration. “They really don’t get sent these notices until we’ve tried and tried and tried to get these reports worked out with them.” (more…)