South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Norris Turkey Farm

A citizens group called Chesterfield Environmental Coalition, Inc., requested SCELP’s assistance in the appeal of an agricultural permit. The permit authorized two brooder turkey houses, as well as the disposal of the manure through a manure broker. The turkey farm would have produce 150,000 birds per year, generating 390 tons of waste per year.

The proposed turkey farm is located in Chesterfield County and is surrounded by several widely-used public recreation areas. These public recreation areas consist of the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, the Sandhills State Forest, which includes the H. Cooper Black Field Trial and Recreation Area used for national field trials, and the Cheraw State Park, which includes a public golf course. The Sandhills State Forest is adjacent to the proposed Turkey Farm. The State Park and its golf course are approximately one mile away from the proposed facility. The Boy Scouts of America also has a nationally recognized camping facility approximately one mile from the farm. The Boy Scouts camp has a lake used for swimming by the campers and the lake is fed from a stream that originates at a wetland that is adjacent to the proposed turkey farm.

DHEC regulations have minimum setback requirements to protect air and water quality. When evaluating site selection, DHEC is required to consider specific factors relevant to preventing air and water pollution. These factors include the impairment of downstream water bodies, the proximity to state and federal parks and forests, the slope of the land, the proximity to other source discharges, animal manure application, runoff prevention and down-wind receptors. Any of these factors would warrant increased setbacks and/or alternative siting.

The turkey houses would be located on highgroud that slopes into an adjacent wetland that in turn drains into the Boy Scouts’ lake. DHEC did not mention or provide any evaluation of the impact of the proposed turkey farm on the adjacent wetland and associated lake from the facility, stating only that “this facility is not expected to discharge into the waters of the State.”

The closest water monitoring station is approximately 5 miles away. This downstream water body was impaired with fecal coliform and mercury and is on DHEC’s 303(d) list of impaired waters. DHEC did not provide any evaluation of the impacts other than to state that no discharges are expected. Yet the manure would be stored outside and dead animals could be buried.

The permit provided that the manure would be disposed of through a manure broker, but did not provide any information about how the broker would “dispose” of the manure. Land application of the manure is typically employed, but there was no indication of where, how often, or how much manure would be applied at any given time, nor any information to allow an assessment of the impacts of the discharge into waters of the State.

In addition to the potential for discharges, the permit did not take measures to protect the public from air pollutants that would be emitted by the turkey farm. These pollutants include ammonia, nitrous oxide, sulfide and mercaptan.

Despite the slope of the land, the presence of an adjacent wetland, the presence of multiple adjacent or nearby public parks and forests, the impairment of downstream receiving waterbody, DHEC used the minimum setback requirements in issuing this permit, even though the regulations require special consideration when these factors are present. DHEC failed to consider whether siting the turkey farm in this location protected air and water quality and whether additional setbacks would have been more protective of air and water quality.

This case was settled favorably with DHEC agreeing to limit the size of the two turkey houses and also insuring that manure would be stored and managed to prevent contamination of adjacent land and waters.

Norris Turkey Farm