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Poultry industry squawking again

In a recent letter to the Sun, a spokesperson for the Delmarva poultry industry, Bill Satterfield, claimed that environmental advocates have been "strangely silent" concerning Baltimore City's sewer overflow problems ("If chicken houses are bad for the bay, Baltimore sewer pipes are worse," Sept. 23).

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, my job is focused entirely on stopping pollution from entering Baltimore's waters, and Blue Water Baltimore has been a persistent watchdog over the city's troubled sewer infrastructure since our founding in 2010. We have and will continue to use all tools at our disposal — including legal action — to ensure that the city meet its obligations to reduce stormwater and sewage pollution and achieve water quality standards.

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Nobody could claim that the chicken industry is silent, however, as its spokespeople take any opportunity to blame the Chesapeake Bay's woes on anything — the Conowingo Dam, for example — that distracts the public from the 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure that is spread on Eastern Shore farm fields each year.

Instead of constantly shifting blame, let's instead focus on the shared responsibility that we all have in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. In order to clean up the bay and our local waters, we will need to reduce pollution from all sectors, including urban sewer overflows, suburban stormwater runoff and rural agricultural pollution.

For example, Baltimore City residents, along with residents of other larger Maryland counties, pay a polluted runoff fee to fund much-needed local projects and programs to reduce runoff pollution. Marylanders also pay a flush fee to fund critical wastewater treatment plant improvements and septic system conversions. Environmental organizations hold government accountable to ensure these programs are working.

We're simply asking for a similar level of accountability for the agriculture industry. New manure management regulations were just enacted this year to limit manure pollution — but they will take a full seven years to be implemented and make a difference. The new regulations should be given a chance to work before the state allows a massive expansion of chicken houses on the Eastern Shore. Mr. Satterfield, there is plenty of "outrage" to go around.

David Flores, Baltimore

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