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More scrutiny for pollution from poultry

On the Eastern Shore, chickens are raised in close quarters in large numbers which raises questions about the air pollution they generate. File.
On the Eastern Shore, chickens are raised in close quarters in large numbers which raises questions about the air pollution they generate. File. (iStockphoto)

I have to hold my applause for the Maryland Department of the Environment in regard to pollution coming from poultry houses (“Maryland will test to determine if Eastern Shore chicken farms are polluting the air,” Jan. 29). From the recent statement released by MDE, it’s clear that this “study” is not enough.

The Hogan administration and Delmarva Poultry Inc. have teamed up to clean-wash reporting on the impacts of concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs on our health. This plan is vague and paid for by industry which is not accountable to Marylanders. It only consists of an ambient study that includes only two actual air monitors in one single location and no real assessment of the impacts of the data gathered or any analysis for how to improve air quality.

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Meanwhile, we've been working with Food & Water Watch and community members to pass the Community Healthy Air Act, a piece of comprehensive legislation introduced by Sen. Clarence K. Lam this year. The bill would require a two-year study of the air near multiple industrial poultry buildings and it would be paid for by MDE. It would require a robust analysis of the results and recommendations for ways to improve the air quality to lawmakers. This bill is the extensive air study Maryland needs, and it forces the department to do its job.

Here on the Eastern Shore, we know that CAFOs generate pollution that destroys our quality of life. MDE has received testimony from residents living close to CAFOs. This testimony includes numerous reports that the surrounding buildings become covered with the particulate discharge and that these residents must keep their windows closed at all times and use air filtration machines inside their homes. Toxins like ammonia and particulate matter build up from these massive chicken houses and blow into our neighborhoods covering plants and trees and washing into our waterways. We’re suffering from higher rates of asthma and lung disease than the rest of the state.

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We need to pass the Community Healthy Air Act. We deserve more than the industry is willing to give us to protect our families.

Joe Jankowski, Berlin

The writer is director of Protectors of the St. Martin River.

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