THE CHICKEN WASTE PROBLEM

by

When the Founders met in Philadelphia to declare Independence in the mid 17 hundreds there was another problem evident. Old Dock Creek which ran through downtown Philadelphia to the back of Independence Hall and Carpenters Hall was polluted with human waste. The odor in downtown Philadelphia was intolerable. In the early days of city development the sewage was thrown into the street to be washed into the creeks and rivers by the next rainstorm. Cities began to pipe the sewage along with the storm water but the pipes all went to the nearest surface water.

This problem has shifted from the Cities to the Country. We now produce 40 times the amount of animal waste as human waste. Each chicken produces 2 pounds of waste including litter and all of it is placed on the ground close to the chicken house and either is washed into the nearest stream or the nitrogen leaches into aquifers. We produce 8 billion chickens and 16 billion pounds of waste each year in 10 major broiler producing States. Most of the heavy producing States are in Coastal Plain watersheds which further exacerbates the contamination of aquifers. The Delmarva Penninsula produces 1.6 billion pounds of broiler waste while Georgia produces 2.8 billion pounds. Some of these States also produce unmanaged waste from hog and dairy CAFO’s. The problem of unmanaged waste starts in the production facility, the CAFO. These facilities are described by Johns Hopkins University in the paper farmacology as perfect pathogen incubators. In order to keep chickens alive for 8 weeks these facilities have increased the output of their ventilation systems which has increasingly contaminated the air around the facility and increased the incidence of diseases such as MRSA to neighbors of these facilities. Technology has been developed which can produce clean fertilizer and energy from the waste and keep our water and air clean. As with human waste management, society always seems to be behind the problem. Unfortunity 5 decades of ignoring this issue has substantially destroyed Chesapeake Bay and other East Coast Estuaries including the Gulf of Mexico.

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