Industrial Turkey Farms

Industrial Turkey Farms

Shedding light on mystery barns.

A growing number of industrial turkey operations have been built on vulnerable karst in Monroe County. Who’s watching out for our water?


Aviagen, Inc. owns property for two neighboring turkey operation sites on the Peters Mountain side of Zenith Road. In September 2022 Aviagen applied for “Permission to Operate an Infiltration System at Site #31. If approved by DEP, Aviagen would be allowed to “filter stormwater and disinfected barn water through a treatment system and stormwater infiltration pond.” Zenith Site #30 received a DEP stormwater pollution control permit in October 2020 which has now expired.

In a written comment to DEP on August 16, 2020 Indian Creek Watershed Association noted that Aviagen’s Zenith Sites are located on karst at the base of Peters Mountain where there are known sinkholes and blind valleys. The group expressed concern that all neighboring families and farms rely on private springs and wells, and that no testing had been done to determine what streams and springs might be impacted by runoff waters from these operations. They requested that testing be done and that stronger pollution control measures and water monitoring procedures be put In place before a permit is issued. Two streams in the Indian Creek watershed likely to be affected are Dropping Lick and Turkey Creek.

The need for and value of robust public comment cannot be overemphasized.

Adjacent Sites #30 and #31 are similarly situated on karst near the headwater springs of two important Indian Creek tributaries. Both are situated on terrain where existing sinkholes will be impacted.  A public comment period and public hearing for the Site #31 permit application in the summer/fall of 2021 raised multiple issues and presented evidence of geological hazards that would impact water quality and water resources in the area.  DEP’s March 16, 2022 Final Decision and Comment Summary stated: “The Agency’s decision, and response to the public comments, is to deny the referenced Registration Application further review. An order of termination for the application will follow.”

ICWA notes that DEP does not have the financial and staffing resources to monitor and ensure that the waters of the state are protected at all times and locations; therefore it must rely on volunteer residents to observe environmental violations and to present their knowledge of local geological and vulnerable topological conditions that must be considered in responsible permitting decisions. There was no Public Comment for the Site #30 initial permit. If there had been, (probably countless) instances of sediment in the sinkholes might not have occurred.

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