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We're visiting our daughter in NY. Seems that the MD poultry industry pollution fight is making national news...


Maryland is most famous for its blue crabs, oysters and watermen, so it has a lot to lose from polluting these waters, Ms. Merkel said.

"That's exactly why it's never made sense to me," she said, "that the state is so unwilling to really regulate one of the bay's biggest polluters."

The economic might of the poultry industry is certainly part of the reason.

Storm runoff from urban areas, lawn fertilizers and pollution from cars and sewage treatment plants also play major roles in polluting the bay. But Environmental Protection Agency officials say that agriculture is the largest single source of pollutants and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay, accounting for over 40 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorous and over 70 percent of the sediment.

State officials say that animal manure produces more phosphorus and nearly the same amount of nitrogen pollution as all human wastewater from treatment plants in the state.

Although the dairy and hog industry in states near the bay produce more pounds of manure, poultry waste has more than twice the concentration of pollutants per pound. Reducing pollution from agriculture is also about a tenth as costly as it is to achieve the same reductions from urban development, state and federal environmental officials say.

"The reason to focus on poultry," said Tom Simpson, executive director of Water Stewardship, an environmental nonprofit agency, "is that sewage treatment plants have already been required to reduce their pollution and storm water runoff from cities and large dairy and hog farms have permits that can be used to limit their water pollution."

But in the past two decades, the poultry industry has carved a special role for itself in terms of the oversight it receives, and it has twice defeated state efforts to impose permits.

Maryland is one of the only states where the poultry industry is regulated by the State Department of Agriculture, whose primary mission is helping farmers, and not by the State Department of the Environment, which is charged with enforcing pollution laws.

Most other states with large poultry farms already require the permits and regular inspections.

In Maryland, however, chicken farmers have only had to file nutrient management plans with state agriculture officials, describing how they control their chicken waste each year.

These documents are not public. The guidelines for manure storage are optional, and the fine for not filing a plan is $350.
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