ACCOMACK, Va/. (Delmarva Now) -- The recent push to construct new chickenhouses in Accomack County is nearing an end, according to one county official.
Rich Morrison, Accomack's planning director, told the Accomack County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday there are only three active applications outstanding for new chicken growing operations in the county.
"All indications are that this big push is about over," he said.
Robert Crockett, the board chairman, asked Morrison and county attorney Cela Berge to answer questions from the board, after a Painter resident spoke during an earlier public comment period about his concerns over the effects of chickenhouses on the region's water supply.
"Once we use up the water, it doesn't come back ... We're going to run out of water on the Shore," said Glen Salmon of Painter.
He noted tomato farms are required to have water meters to measure their water use.
"The important thing is that we track the water. There should be transparency in how much water is being used," he said, asking Accomack County to work with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the matter.
During the board's discussion afterward, Crockett noted that people for some time now have been appearing before the Board of Supervisors to comment on concerns about poultry operations.
"It appears they are asking us to undo applications that have already been approved," he said, asking Berge to comment.
Berge said once a zoning permit, which is granted as an administrative matter, has been issued, "there is no current authority for you all to act to revoke a zoning permit."
Most of the permit applications related to the recent increase in chickenhouse construction came in before the end of 2016, according to Morrison.
The three outstanding permit applications came "at various stages of 2017," he said.
He did not give a total number for permits issued by the county for new poultry operations during the period.
Supervisor Ron Wolff asked Morrison to comment on whether it is a fact that "the county just plays a small part in this application process."
"There are a number of state applications that are required," Morrison said, noting the county does not issue a zoning permit until after a Virginia Pollution Abatement permit has been issued by the state.
"We're kind of the last in line," he said.
The threshold of water use for a monitoring well being required is more than 300 gallons of water per month, he said, adding, "My understanding is you have to have a water meter, too."
Supervisor Paul Muhly, a member of the Eastern Shore Groundwater Committee, said that body is advisory, but the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which is a regulatory agency, is "actively looking at this problem."
"They want to know and they will find out just how much withdrawal is being used," he said.