Death of 60,000 farm chickens calls state laws into question - | WBTV Charlotte

Death of 60,000 farm chickens calls state laws into question

(File photo) (File photo)
Cleveland County, NC -

By Jeff Rivenbark - email

CLEVELAND COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Up to 60,000 chickens died at Greenway Farms on McCraw Road nearly two weeks ago, but neighbors say the stench there extends beyond the rotting poultry carcasses.

They say dirty clouds of debris drift from the farm on a daily basis, and they're worried the dust could contain harmful waste from the chickens.

The case first attracted attention when the chickens suffocated. Greenway's owner was using a generator connected to large fans in the chicken houses which quit working.  The large fans help pull air through the chicken house to keep the temperature down.

Andy Elmore with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture said the chickens probably died within minutes after the fans stopped working.

Elmore said the chickens were buried according to state regulations. "And our regulatory jurisdiction on a case like this is restricted to how carcasses are disposed of," Elmore said.

Health officials say there is no public health concern, but neighbors disagree.

"It's not just a smell," says Mick McCraw, who lives nearby. "We get a dust coming out of these chicken houses...I'm sure there's manure in it."

Ron Barrett owns a farm on Greenway's border, and says the problem is amplified by the fans in the chicken houses. "Those fans blow right on to my house," he says.

Neighbors are struggling to find a state agency that can help them. "North Carolina does not have any easements, setbacks, rules, or regulations when it comes to chicken farms," Barrett says. "In South Carolina, it's not like that."

Currently, the state does not have routine inspections of chicken houses and state officials typically only visit a farm after a water quality or other type of environmental complaint has been filed. 

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