Justin Marney

Excess Poultry Waste Contamination

While this post may not fit the strictly technical nature of my blog, the impact of unregulated poultry waste is an issue that directly affects me, and most likely you as well (especially if you live in or near Northern Virginia). There is a very important bit of legislation coming up regarding poultry waste regulation that you have an opportunity to voice your opinion about! Here is an explanation of why you should care and information on how you can help.

The Issue

I am an avid fly fisherman and I enjoy fishing the waters from the Shenandoah National Park all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, these waters are subject to a wide variety of pollutants as they run through a gamut of industrial and developmental regions. The Shenandoah Valley is home to one of the largest poultry producing areas in the country. In addition, just east of the valley, suburban growth radiating outwards from the Washington, D.C. has reached the banks of the Shenandoah River. Further east, all of the urban population and its associated waste end up reaching our rivers through drainage systems. While the effort to keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy is clearly a multi-front battle there is a very important bit of legislation regarding poultry waste regulation that you have an opportunity to voice your opinion about. Poultry waste in our water has all sorts of heinous environmental impacts, mainly surrounding the extremely high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen that act as an algae fertilizer. Algal blooms deplete the oxygen from the water creating dead zones where no life can be sustained. This in turn causes widespread, long term stress on the fish population damaging their immune system and leaving them susceptible to normally innocuous aquatic bacteria. In addition, growth hormones present in poultry waste have a devastating effect on the endocrine system of fish leading to fish inter-sex (male fish producing female eggs). This combined degradation has led to widespread fish kills in addition to rendering many areas of waterfront unusable for recreational purposes. The regulation itself aims to close a legal loophole that has existed in the Shenandoah Valley (one of the top ten poultry producing regions in the country) for some time. Large scale industrial poultry farming operations are already regulated, however they are allowed to give their excess waste to neighboring farms that do not meet the production requirements for regulation. In turn, these farms do not dispose of the waste properly and it is making its way back into the Shenandoah River.

How You Can Help!

The legislation in question is 9VAC25-630 Virginia Pollution Abatement General Permit Regulation for Poultry Waste Management and can be found starting on page 101 (or 3867 according to the TOC) to page 120. If you wish to offer your support, leave a short comment here on the petition. Provide your name, how you use the waterways, and that you support this regulation. You can take a look at the comment I left for inspiration.

The Catch!

THE PETITION CLOSES ON FRIDAY AUGUST 21, 2009! Short notice, I know. Please, if you wish to show your support sign it ASAP.


9VAC25-630, start on page 101 (or 3867 according to the TOC) - 120
The Petition
The Health of the Shenandoah River in Clarke County
Intersex in Smallmouth Bass Coincident with Population and Agriculture ...
Study warns of pitfalls to poultry waste as fertilizer substitute
Hormones found in field runoff can disrupt fishes’ endocrine systems (PDF) Poisoned Waters, Frontline report on Chesapeake Bay pollution