ACCOMAC, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- Two speakers criticized Accomack officials' response to the increase in large poultry operations in the county, with others in the audience appearing to support the remarks on Dec. 20.
"Over the past two years, many worried citizens and organizations of the Eastern Shore have stood in front of you, stating our concerns and presenting documents and evidence regarding the mass destruction that CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) wreak on communities and the environment — yet you allowed them to be built," said Carlene Zach, a Pungoteague Road resident and Melfa postmaster, who lives near a 24-house project that was the subject of controversy in 2016.
Zach and another woman spoke during a public comment period at the Dec. 20 meeting of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors.
She reminded the board the Eastern Shore Health District director, who is a physician, gave them a 30-minute presentation on public health issues related to the operations.
After the Board of Supervisors held a work session on poultry regulations in January 2016, the Accomack County Planning Commission met with Dr. David Matson, director of the Eastern Shore Health District, about the health impacts of poultry houses.
The board subsequently, in February 2016, passed stricter zoning regulations for poultry houses.
The maximum limit of poultry houses is 12 per parcel under the current regulations, along with a concentration of no more than one house per five acres — but critics point out there are no restrictions on side-by-side operations, such as the two on Pungoteague Road.
Zach also in her comments cited an 88-page Eastern Shore of Virginia Groundwater Resource Protection and Preservation plan, "stating that human consumption of water overrides agricultural concerns."
She said her property and that of other residents has decreased in value as result of the proximity of poultry operations.
"The paper is full of homes for sale at reduced sales prices," she said.
Zach said county residents are developing respiratory problems and some are calling the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality about "the permeating stench" coming from poultry operations.
"They have already been denied the right to clean air," she said.
Zach asked what county officials will do when wells go dry.
"How will water be established to my home for my horses and my farm?" she said.
Zach said officials "have failed to protect or govern on behalf of the citizens who have elected you to this position ... You knowingly and willingly sacrificed your county and its people to offshore corporate takeover."
A second speaker, Ann Boylston Violi of Harborton, said she wrote each board member and other elected officials in February about her concerns over the increase in large poultry operations in the county.
"As you know, it's not transparent. People have had to use FOIA (Freedom of Information Act requests) to try to find out how many, where and so on. Many people don't understand what's going on, so they're not frightened — but those of us who have some background in wetlands and farming ... are very concerned," she said.
Boylston Violi said Maryland "now is worrying about this phosphorus they're putting into the Chesapeake (Bay) from the CAFOs — they're not as vulnerable as we are."
"Please educate yourselves and do what you can to put on the brakes here," she asked the board.