U.S. Water News Online
ROME, Ga. -- Researchers say the levels of phosphorous in
Georgia's waterways are reaching an alarming level, and they blame
the pollution on the growing amount of poultry waste dumped in
Poultry waste is a byproduct of a dominating industry in rural
north Georgia, and -- to a lesser extent -- the southeastern corner
of the state below Interstate 16.
Along with the sprawl of metro Atlanta into rural counties, there
is far less land available for waste disposal. Runoff from farmland
laden with chicken manure has been linked to high concentration of
phosphorous in waterways, including the Coosa River in northwest
Georgia's Floyd County and the Canoochee River, which runs through
Linda Burkhalter remembers how she used to play in the Canoochee
with her sisters 50 years ago, when the water was cleaner. A few
years ago, she stopped visiting the algae-choked river, which runs
four miles downstream from the Claxton Poultry Company poultry plant.
``You could not see the river from one bank to the other,'' she
said. ``And it had a nasty smell.''
Claxton has settled a lawsuit filed by Burkhalter, and a portion
of the money went to create Canoochee Riverkeeper, and environmental
In Rome, where the Coosa narrows, taxpayers are left footing the
bill for cleaning their river that's saturated in algae and sediment.
``There's been thousands of dollars spent to deal with extra
algae,'' said Mitch Lawson, the executive director of the Coosa River
Basin Initiative, an environmental group.
Early in 2001, the state Board of Natural Resources set stricter
standards for waste lagoons at medium and large egg farms, which use
``wet-waste'' disposal systems. But the rules exempted Georgia's
roughly 3,700 farms that raise broilers because their waste is dry,
which is used as a nitrogen-rich grass fertilizer.
This week, the board is considering a proposal that would require
permits for the 500 largest broiler farms, but environmentalists say
that won't be enough to offset the pollution.
``If you drive around southeastern Georgia, most of the farms have
three, maybe four chicken houses,'' said Chandra Brown, executive
director of the Canoochee Riverkeeper. ``These medium farms are going
to be exempt from any regulation. They should have to have a plan for
disposing of their (waste).''
Officials at the Environmental Protection Division say because of
the additional workload, the state can't afford to expand the
proposed regulation beyond the broiler farms.
Poultry plant representatives say regulating dry poultry waste is
unnecessary because voluntary efforts to manage waste disposal have
About 85 percent of the state's chicken farms have
``nutrient-management plans'' that were developed in the 1990s, said
Abit Massey, the executive director of the Gainesville-based Georgia
``They are site-specific,'' Massey said. ``What may be appropriate
on one farm may not be appropriate for another in the same county.''
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