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?

Industrial Turkey Farms Operations                        [VERSION 2 with more Subheads/bold. Accepted TC]

[Keep current lead text.]



ICWA is currently working to preserve and protect the exceptional water quality of first-order [NB1] streams within Indian Creek watershed from potential pollution and degradation caused by an increasing number of industrialized turkey “farms” sited on karst in Monroe County.

Aviagen Turkeys Inc., based in Lewisburg, WV, is the North American arm [headquarters?] of an international [organization/group?] focused on intensive turkey breeding stock. There are currently 10 Aviagen sites in Monroe County, all of which are situated on karst.

Aviagen’s neighboring Zenith Road properties, Sites #30 and #31, are situated on karst with sinkholes in blind valleys. Both properties are located near the headwater springs of two important Indian Creek tributaries: Dropping Lick and Turkey Creek.

[Insert map showing site drawings for 30/31, possibly showing distance to DL and TC springs?]

Why here? Several factors create inviting conditions for a business like Aviagen and make Monroe County a “perfect storm” target:

  • West Virginia’s insufficient environmental protections and inspection/enforcement resources to safeguard the state’s water resources;
  • The state’s special protections or exclusions for intensive poultry production that shield the industry from environmental and health regulations required of most concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs);
  • Monroe County’s lack of zoning and other county-level safeguards; and
  • The county’s longstanding farming history and agricultural character.

In the Zenith area, Aviagen will be taking advantage of easy access to Peters Mountain’s clean water by digging a well to support its operations, while also avoiding responsibility for ensuring that its waste waters do not pollute and degrade the vulnerable karst aquifer on which it sits. Apparently, if you can’t identify an affected surface stream, you don’t have to be held accountable. The company can also offload its turkey litter waste to local farmers as free fertilizer. It sounds like a win-win situation, except that there are no assurances that every farmer can or will be careful to prevent run-off of excess nutrients into streams, or the absorption of pollutants into ground water from litter spread on karst pastures and fields.

Under the radar. Aviagen’s expansion has largely taken place without any opportunity for community input or before-the-fact reaction.Site #31, the most recent location, was the first Aviagen site in the county for which a Public Notice was issued for a water-related permit. It was the first site where neighbors and the community had the opportunity to review an Aviagen permit application and voice their concerns and issues.

Unique risks and strong concerns. ICWA and members of the community have expressed significant concern that all neighboring families and farms in the Zenith area rely on private springs and wells, and that no testing has been done to determine what streams and springs might be impacted by runoff waters from these operations. ICWA has specifically requested that both dye-tracing and water testing be done and that stronger pollution control measures and water monitoring procedures be put In place before a permit is issued. Beyond water … [include some of the other health, nuisance and property value issues?]


Site #30 at Zenith:  Aviagen has largely completed land preparation and construction of a concrete pad and holding pond on Site 30. However, because it failed to complete construction within the one-year time limit of its permit, Aviagen is now seeking a permit “reissue” from the WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). ICWA has twice requested that community review and input on Site #30 be included through a public comment period and public hearing. On [date]  WVDEP issued a public notice that it is receiving comments from the public about: 1) whether Aviagen’s proposed NPDES permit would comply with West Virginia’s groundwater protection regulations and 2) whether the system described in Aviagen’s application would protect local groundwater from contamination by the construction and operation of Aviagen’s turkey operation on this site.

SEE ______ for more information about Site #30 including permit and ICWA comments.

Site #31 at Zenith: Aviagen is currently in the construction phase of its turkey facility on Site #31: On xx Aviagen received “Permission to Operate an Infiltration System at Site #31, allowing Aviagen to “filter stormwater and disinfected barn water through a treatment system and stormwater infiltration pond.”

In other words, the water used to clean the industrial turkey operation barns (including areas that would have held manure or “turkey litter”) would be treated and then allowed to “infiltrate” or pour [drain?] into the groundwater in Zenith. Once the clean-up water is disinfected with chlorine, the “chlorinated barn water” and stormwater run-off would be collected in an unlined pond before it “infiltrates”, passes through sandstone and fractured limestone (karst) and into the groundwater and unknown springs in the Zenith and Turkey Creek valleys.

SEE ______ for more information about Site #31 including permit and ICWA comments.

Expansion in Monroe County. [NB4] Of major concern to many local landowners is that Aviagen’s 10 sites in Monroe County – either in operation or under construction – are all located on uniquely vulnerable limestone terrain known as karst[NB2] . (See map of Aviagen locations in Monroe County.)[NB3]  

Aviagen has purchased at least four pre-existing intensive poultry operation sites (at Alderson, Pickaway, Gates Road, and Gap Mills). Since about 2017, it has also purchased six more sites for development: four in the Second Creek watershed (two on former Neff Orchard/Morgan Orchard property and two nearby on properties along Morris Road), and most recently, two sites in the Indian Creek watershed on Zenith Road at the base of Peters Mountain.


Local neighbors and ICWA volunteers have observed, recorded and reported to WVDEP unlawful conditions at Sites 30 and 31. Several have led to formal “Notices of Violation” (NOVs).

SEE ______ for more information about Aviagen Violations.                     


Since December 2021, a team of ICWA volunteers has conducted monthly monitoring at two sites near major karst springs that could be adversely affected by Aviagen’s Zenith operations currently under construction. Six volunteers have been involved in the testing, which started with a calibration/training session and initial monitoring at two sites in late 2021.

ICWA has enlisted Downstream Strategies to conduct a professional baseline water quality evaluation of these two sites and others, to establish a certified independent baseline record of the water quality at these springs prior to the initiation of any turkey operations at the Zenith sites – and, in the case of pre-existing operations, to identify any potential concerns and create a baseline against which a pollution event can be assessed. 


Anecdotal reports have been heard that Aviagen has offered to purchase other properties on Peters Mountain along the same band of karst present in Zenith. [Include something about reporting information to ICWA email – or contacting the ICWA email if you are interested in being kept up to date about Aviagen developments??]