March 4, 2024

Food & Water Watch Targets Maryland Poultry Industry Polluters

Food & Water Watch is targeting poultry industries in Maryland that contribute to nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Legislation introduced by Senator Richard Madaleno (D-18) and Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39), called the Poultry Fair Share Act, would hold Maryland’s big poultry companies partially accountable for cleanup.

Chicken CarcassesWater quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has declined in recent years. Factory poultry farms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore make a billion and a half pounds of waste every year. Contract growers are forced to dump excess chicken manure on saturated farm fields because these companies will not handle the waste themselves. Runoff ends up in the Bay and its tributaries.

Food Poisoning Bulletin told you about this problem last month. Phosphorous pollution causes algal blooms, which can be toxic and create dead zones in waters and kill fish and other wildlife.

Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the country and one of the most important biologically productive bodies of water in the world. Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement, “Maryland taxpayers are subsidizing the big chicken companies, while they pollute for free. Perdue alone has received over $4.2 million dollars in grants and payments from the state of Maryland since 2008, including $74,000 to Jim Perdue personally, while the company leaves its waste behind for others to deal with.”

Maryland taxpayers pay $15 million in Baltimore city, $21 million in Montgomery County, $4.0 million in Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico Counties, and $110 million across the state towards the Bay Restoration Fund. Perdue has annual chicken sales of $4.8 billion and pays nothing into the fund.

Dr. Robert Lawrence, director of Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, said in a statement, “The public health and environmental impacts of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay are clear. Continued pollution from poultry waste runoff has created dead zones in the Bay and puts the public at risk for exposure to a number of harmful pathogens and other contaminants and contributes to water-related diseases including blue baby syndrome. It’s time for Maryland regulators to take a stand for public health and hold polluters accountable for the degradation of the Chesapeake Bay.”

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