When environmentalists first raised concerns that poultry farmers were over fertilizing the surrounding land with litter as a means of waste disposal that was polluting our waterways, the NC Poultry Federation disputed the claim. Executive director Bob Ford said that the farmers would never waste litter because it was such a valuable commodity.
But as large scale poultry operations continue to expand across North Carolina, farmers now admit that they have significantly more chicken poop than they know what to do with. North Carolina Renewable Power (NCRP) claims to have a solution that will satisfy both farmers and environmentalists.
In 2018, NCRP transformed a dormant Lumberton coal-fired power plant on a Brownfield site into only the second utility scale power plant in the country that uses a high percentage of poultry litter as fuel. The factory burns wood, poultry cake and poultry litter in two boilers to generate steam used to generate electricity in the existing turbine and wants to increase its output.
Donna Chavis of NC Climate Justice Collective calls the energy generating process highly polluting, non-renewable and a false solution to the climate crisis. “Since its early days, NCRP has added poultry cake and grown from burning 25% poultry litter to projecting an increase to 85 – 100% poultry waste,” said Chavis. “Permitting facilities such as North Carolina Renewable Power locks NC into continued dependence on dirty fuel.”
Poultry litter is a mix of manure and bedding which also contains bacteria and heavy metals and is classified as a hazardous waste product in many states. NCRP water runoff from poultry litter pollutes local waterways which causes fish kills, “dead zones,” algae blooms and unhealthy aquatic ecosystems.
Robeson County has the highest poverty rate in North Carolina and is one of the most economically distressed areas in the state, statistics that make it a target for industries that promise to bring jobs. When NCRP opened its first plant in Lumberton, it touted job creation and significant economic benefits throughout rural Robeson County.
Chavis is also concerned about the health impact of more polluting industries in the county. According to 2021 county rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Robeson County ranks dead last in both health factors (environmental, social and economic conditions) and in health outcomes (lifespan and self-reported health status).
Under the current Title V operating permit, the facility is classified as a minor source based on accepted, enforceable limits of 250 tons per year for multiple pollutants regulated under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program. NCRP has applied for a permit modification to implement a boiler maintenance project and to meet the requirements of a 2017 Special Order by Consent (SOC).
“The draft permit reclassifies the facility as a PSD major source to reflect the current emissions, operating scenarios, and additional boiler modifications and requires the facility to implement Best Available Control Technology on its boilers and other emission sources,” according to the NCDEQ.
The NC Division of Air Quality will host a remote public hearing on the draft permit on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. To take part in the live event at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21, online https://bit.ly/31U012y, using the event password: NCDAQ. Voicemail comments can be left at 919-707-8714 or emailed to email@example.com with the subject line [“NCRP.17C”] until until 5 p.m. Feb. 24.