Approximately 200 people attended n public hearing at Nandua High School Tuesday night. The hearing was supposedly to entertain comments from the public on three Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System water discharge permits being sought by three poultry farms in northern Accomack County. The three represent the first poultry farms in the country required to have water discharge permits.

Speakers at the event represented the Virginia Farm Bureau, Delmarva Poultry Industry, a group representing Virginia Poultry growers, outside environmental groups including Mighty Earth and the Environmental Action Group,   local environmental activists Shorekeepers and CBES, local farmers, representatives from aquaculture and concerned citizens.

Approximately 40 speakers addressed three members of the DEQ who conducted the hearing.

Many of the local speakers have previously expressed their opinions on these issues in various public forums concerning poultry houses over the last few years.

Most were concerned that the water quality tests currently required are inadequate and needed to be much stricter than proposed. Concerns were also voiced about water usage by the large poultry operations and of course the usual concerns about the use of poultry manure as fertilizer. Fears that the poultry operations could result in depletion of the local aquifers were also on the minds of many. Concerns that exhaust from the houses resulted in dust and ammonia emissions were also expressed.

Several local farmers explained the efforts they make to reduce run off and responsibly manage their overall farming operations.

Mr. Norman Pitt of Environmental Services LLC and a former employee of the Building and Zoning said that there have been huge improvements in site work and water retention in the new poultry operations in the last 10 years.

Several speakers hailed from the Pungoteague, Harborton, Painter, Wachapreague, and Onancock areas, approximately 25 miles from the farms seeking discharge permits. There were two speakers from Northampton County commenting as well.

Anyone wishing to participate in writing can still submit their comments either by letter or by email. Written comments should be sent to Robert Smithson , DEQ-TR0, 5636 Southern Blvd, Virginia Beach Virginia 23462. You can submit email comments to robert.smithsonjr@deq.virginia.gov. The deadline for submitting written comments is February 14.