Slaughter Houses Can Kill Rivers
While there has been thorough reporting on the sale of land for a recently opened Mountaire poultry processing plant in Siler City, there has been less said about the plant’s harmful environmental impact on Love’s Creek, Rocky River and downstream into the Cape Fear Watershed. Mountaire opened its Siler City slaughter house in January. As one of the country’s largest poultry processors, with sales over $2 billion in 2017, Mountaire Farms is expected to employ over 1,000 people and eject enormous amounts of polluted wastewater. It has been sued more than once in its home state of Delaware for violating the Clean Water Act and the company has a history of noncompliance.
The draft amended permit proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Division of Water Resources (DWR) allows Mountaire to send its polluted wastewater to Siler City Wastewater Treatment Plant without removing harmful nitrogen. This will further harm the Rocky River, in which North Carolinians currently cannot safely fish, swim, or boat because of excess nitrogen that causes algae blooms and fish kills.
Siler City naturally welcomes many new jobs in this essentially rural area. The Town is to be commended for working to secure grants to help their waste water treatment plant deal with the huge quantities of contaminants, especially nitrogen, that will be discharged. The price tag to upgrade the Siler City Wastewater Treatment Plant will be substantial and the Town has secured only a small portion of the funding it will need to make those upgrades. The amended permit before the DEQ would limit nitrogen to be discharged beginning in 2023. Meanwhile Mountaire is set to discharge more nitrogen into the Rocky River than the previous two polluting plants combined.
Measures to limit further damage to Loves Creek, the Rocky River and the Deep and Cape Fear Rivers and to begin monitoring downstream need to occur immediately rather than four years from now. Further restrictions on untreated nitrogen discharge from the Mountaire plant need to be in place.
The DWR acknowledges that the Draft Modification of the permit would not meet water quality standards. It is a fact that Siler City Wastewater Treatment Plant cannot treat the nitrogen in Mountaire’s waste stream. Mountaire should be required to remove total nitrogen from its wastes before discharging to the Siler City Wastewater Plant. Strict parameters should be set for the safety of our waters.
League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham, And Chatham Counties
League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear
Clarice Reber, Secretary and Environmental Action Team Leader, League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear at 910-319-6335
Carol Roberts, President, League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear, at 910-547-6161
Mary Ellen Cole, Communications Director, League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear, at 703-618-6196