15 min

Frequent Pollution Violations by Maryland’s Poultry Industry, But Few Penalties Environmental Integrity Project

    • News

Bruce Ivins is no snowflake. He’s a 62-year-old welder and lifelong farmer who grew up amid the cattle, chickens, and tractors on his family’s farm near Centreville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

But then his neighbor built two industrial-sized chicken houses next door, and he filed a complaint with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) because he could not tolerate the clouds of ammonia, dust, and feathers from the operation’s exhaust fans. But MDE took any action against the poultry operation next door. “Where were the people from MDE? … Someone dropped the ball on this,” Ivins complained.

He is not alone in being concerned about the lack of enforcement or oversight of the poultry industry by MDE. An investigation by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) of more than 5,000 pages of MDE inspection reports shows that 84 percent of Maryland poultry farms inspected by the state between 2017 and 2020 failed water pollution control permit requirements. But only about two percent of the poultry operations – or four total facilities, out of the 153 that failed inspections – were ever penalized by the state for breaking the terms of their pollution control permits.

Bruce Ivins is no snowflake. He’s a 62-year-old welder and lifelong farmer who grew up amid the cattle, chickens, and tractors on his family’s farm near Centreville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

But then his neighbor built two industrial-sized chicken houses next door, and he filed a complaint with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) because he could not tolerate the clouds of ammonia, dust, and feathers from the operation’s exhaust fans. But MDE took any action against the poultry operation next door. “Where were the people from MDE? … Someone dropped the ball on this,” Ivins complained.

He is not alone in being concerned about the lack of enforcement or oversight of the poultry industry by MDE. An investigation by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) of more than 5,000 pages of MDE inspection reports shows that 84 percent of Maryland poultry farms inspected by the state between 2017 and 2020 failed water pollution control permit requirements. But only about two percent of the poultry operations – or four total facilities, out of the 153 that failed inspections – were ever penalized by the state for breaking the terms of their pollution control permits.

15 min

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