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Ga. Poultry Farmers Say New Rules Could Be Costly

Mon, 03/12/2012 - 9:20am
The Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Proposed new regulations dealing with how some industrial facilities in Georgia deal with storm water are causing concern for officials in Georgia's poultry industry.

The Gainesville Times reports that the proposed rules, which are out for public comment until Friday, require poultry facilities near impaired streams to capture rain in heavy storms.

The head of the Georgia Poultry Federation says it could mean costly changes for Georgia poultry companies.

But an environmental group, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in Gainesville, says the rules could be stronger.

Mark Giles, head of the Georgia Poultry Federation, says about one quarter of Georgia's poultry plants will be affected by the new requirements for sites near streams deemed impaired because of high levels of the bacteria.

He said proposed new regulations affecting how some 3,000 industrial facilities in the state deal with storm water have strong implications for Georgia's poultry industry.

The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is paying particular attention to Flat Creek. The tributary of Lake Lanier flows through some of Gainesville's heaviest industrial areas. The creek runs through a large section of the Gainesville area, but a six-mile stretch through the city is so contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria that the state's Environmental Protection Division lists it as an impaired stream.

The state designated use for the creek is fishing,

The creek's state-designated use is for fishing, but the Environmental Protection Division says the health of the creek won't support fishing.

A specific cause for concern for poultry companies is the standard for fecal coliform.

But Giles argues that poultry companies aren't the only ones responsible for high levels of the bacteria.

"Fecal coliform is a challenging pollutant to measure and also to control through a permit process," he said. "It is everywhere in the environment."

Members of the Riverkeeper say that long-term measurements of fecal coliform, especially E. coli, will help determine if health hazards exist in the stream and their cause.

Members of the Riverkeeper recently have begun testing the waters of Flat Creek in several areas, including one next to a Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant on Industrial Boulevard in Gainesville.

The weekly tests have shown varied results, depending on rainfall.

But at one point in mid-February, the group says a sampling of stream water near the facility showed bacteria levels more than 55 times the state's water quality standard.

A sample at the same location Thursday showed fecal coliform levels, closer to, but still higher than, the standard of 235. Pilgrim's Pride spokeswoman Margaret McDonald said she would not comment on tests not conducted by the government.

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