Austin - Massive chicken factory farms are outstripping state environmental protections, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). Weak state controls on waste disposal are fouling streams, sickening residents and overloading the soil, especially in East Texas where a large number of industrial-sized chicken operations are located.
Texas ranks number one in the country for total animal waste production, more than twice that of the second largest producer, California. The manure production of the Texas chicken industry alone is staggering -- nearly 500 million birds producing 31 billion pounds of waste a year. The bulk of the waste is sprayed on surrounding lands.
According to agency records, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state's environmental agency, has done little to respond to the burgeoning burden of chicken manure. TNRCC has:
* approved continued expansions of chicken factory farms despite numerous past violations;.
* failed to institute contamination disposal controls on streams classified as "impaired" due to the flow of chicken waste; and
* ignored repeated complaints from neighbors about overpowering odor and health problems associated with the plants.
The record of Bo Pilgrim, the owner of Pilgrims Pride, one of the top chicken producers in the country, and his relationship with Texas Governor George W. Bush is also profiled on the Texas PEER web site. The company is now proposing to use deep injection wells for chicken waste disposal despite concerns about effects on the watertable.
"Texas is Number 1 in manure production but its environmental record is a Number 2," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "The kid glove treatment by state officials accorded to chicken waste flowing from favored producers is just another example of how things are done in Texas -- public health takes a back seat to big bucks."