State tries to close Buckeye Egg Farm

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COLUMBUS – Contempt charges were filed for the ninth time against Buckeye Egg Farm for its alleged continued environmental violations, however, this time actions were also taken to close the operations.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Christopher Jones issued the proposal April 22 to revoke the 15 wastewater permits the farm needs to legally operate its egg production facilities in Ohio.

Ohio Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery filed the contempt charges against the owner, Anton Pohlmann, because of his farm’s alleged continued unauthorized discharge of storm water and extreme fly problems.

In addition to closing the facilities, the state is asking Licking County Common Pleas Court for jail time for Pohlmann.

Jones also proposed to deny the farm’s eight pending applications that deal with manure and egg wash water handling systems.

The proposed action will become final May 23 unless Buckeye Egg Farm or other affected parties request an adjudication hearing. If a hearing is requested, the permits will remain in effect throughout the appeals process. Pohlmann has not yet filed for a hearing.

The future. Buckeye Egg Farm has 125 barns that hold a total of 15.5 million laying hens and pullets, as well as a hatchery and breeding barn.

The environmental agency expects the company to remove all chickens and manure from the barns within 180 days after the proposed action becomes final. This process would use a phased approach that requires the company to close 20 buildings every 30 days, while complying with all existing environmental requirements.

“For years, citizens and the environment have suffered as a result of the company’s poor management and broken promises,” Jones said.

“The state has penalized Buckeye Egg Farm for violations and secured commitments from the company to make changes, yet the company continues to demonstrate it is not capable of operating in compliance,” he said.

Continuous problems. In 2001, the farm agreed to pay a $1.36 million civil penalty and substantially change its business practices to comply with Ohio’s environmental laws.

However, the state repeatedly continued to seek contempt charges for alleged violations of the agreement.

Past complaints allege open dumping of animal waste, open dumping of solid waste, contamination of state waterways, allowing storm water release, discharging contaminated egg wash wastewater and poor fly management.

Neighbors’ suit. A Licking County Common Pleas Court jury found Buckeye Egg Farm guilty of causing environmental damage in September. The jury awarded 21 area residents the $19.2 million damage judgment.

The suit was brought in 1999 in response to a liquid manure and ammonia spill that killed fish for several miles down Raccoon Creek.

“People may assume that this is a so-called ‘mega-farm’ problem, when in fact, it is a management problem,” said Ohio Agriculture Director Fred L. Dailey.

“Every farmer, regardless of size, has a duty to manage their farm in a responsible manner, and most of Ohio’s 80,000 farms do so every day,” he said. “Unfortunately, Buckeye Egg Farm’s management failures, as well as its callous disregard for neighbors and regulatory oversight, have forced this unprecedented action.”

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