The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent our advertisers

Friday, February 16, 2018


(Pungoteague, Virginia) 2/15/2018; In a February 15, 2018 letter to David Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”), a loosely formed coalition of five citizens from the Eastern Shore of Virginia counties of Accomack and Northampton urged the department to consider placing an injunction on the 83 poultry Care and Feeding Operations (CAFO's) because they failed to get groundwater withdrawal permits. 

Over the last several years, approximately 250-270 large broiler houses, some having the capacity to house 48,000 birds every 43 days, have been constructed or are under construction or in the planning stages in Accomack County. 

The Eastern Shore of Virginia draws the majority of its drinking water from the Yorktown aquifer...the same source that is being used or proposed to be used by the CAFOs. Any prospective user who intends to withdraw over 300,000 gallons of groundwater per month in a groundwater management area is required BY LAW to first apply for and receive a permit to do so from the State Water Control Board, a citizen panel appointed by the Governor and a political arm of the DEQ. 

The citizens respectfully requesting the injunction “or appropriate action” recently discovered that the DEQ failed to require the CAFO's to get a groundwater withdrawal permit as required by Virginia Law 62.1-258, and that failure is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000/day for each and every day water is taken from a protected area without a permit.

“We know the Commonwealth is pro-poultry,” said Carlene Zach who lives next to a 24-house CAFO in Pungoteague. “But the law is the law, and it should not be so cavalierly eviscerated.” The CAFO next to the Zach's is partially completed and the Zach's derive their water from a well in close proximity to the large complex. The review of a groundwater withdrawal permit by the DEQ is designed to determine if the “cone of depression” from the use will impact neighboring wells. “Every time we turn on the tap or water our horses, we wonder if this will be the last time we will be able to rely on our well. It's not right.” 

“It is hard to drive through any town in Accomack County without seeing these large industrial poultry facilities” added Gene Gibson from Wachapreague. “To now learn that they are using our precious groundwater without the citizens really knowing the long term impacts of that use on our sustainable drinking water supplies is egregious, at best, and certainly a clear violation of law.” 

“There is a reason why the Eastern Shore of Virginia has been named a “sole source aquifer” by the EPA,” said Ann Violi of Harborton on the Chesapeake Bay. “These CAFO's should be encouraged to use groundwater from the surface aquifer otherwise known as the Columbia, where there are ample supplies and that use does not compete with our limited supplies in the Yorktown.” 

“We understand the DEQ, admitting that these CAFOs which will use tens of millions of gallons of our drinking water every month never got a permit to do so, has opened an “amnesty program” and invited the CAFO's to voluntarily apply for a permit retroactively,” Ken Dufty from Exmore said. “That's like jumping off a cliff and then googling “parachute” on the way down. It's ridiculous.”. 

The group is also contacting Governor Northam who was born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and therefore is familiar with the sensitive nature of the aquifer underlying that small peninsula.

No comments: