Poultry Farm Aerial Investigations

PHOTO: LEWIS, 2022 – Dry litter piles sitting outside between the right two poultry barns.

Our White Oak Waterkeeper recently went on a flight with SouthWings pilot, Rolf, to observe Poultry and Hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The goal of the flight was to identify farms in the White Oak River Basin and look for permit violations that can lead to contamination in waterways.

SouthWings is a nonprofit conservation organization that provides a network of volunteer pilots to advocate for the restoration and protection of ecosystems across the Southeast through flight. Partnerships with SouthWings provides unique opportunities to our own small nonprofit that allow the White Oak Waterkeeper to better observe pollution and assess water quality in our complex network of creeks and rivers.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality defines a Poultry CAFO as a feeding operation where at least 30,000 chickens are housed. CAFOs, or factory farms, are massive, windowless, production facilities where animals are confined in crates or stalls without access to sunshine, fresh air, or natural vegetation.

Poultry operations in North Carolina that use dry waste systems (dry litter poultry operations) are not required to obtain permits from the Division of Water Resources. However, while these operations are not required to apply for permits, they must follow general requirements as outlined in statutes and rules. Following are the first two requirements for all dry litter operations over 30,000 birds.

1. Litter shall not be stockpiled within 100 feet of perennial streams, waterbodies, or wells.

2. Stockpiled litter shall not be left uncovered for more than 15 days.

Other requirements can be read here.

Poultry waste, mixed with bedding and carcasses is stored in large piles that, when left uncovered, can easily be blown away by wind. And though this waste storage method is called “dry litter” it still contains liquid waste that can drain out of the pile and into adjacent waterways. 11-29-22

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