Dr. Susan Raymond, the Powell Mesa veterinarian whose home and business is located just to the northeast of the Western Slope Layers barn says that the now-in-operation facility is affecting her health. She says that when the facility’s fans kick in and the day heats up, a cloud of visible white dust, she describes as a very fine dry manure and chicken dander, is expelled. The afternoon and evening winds then carry the dust across Raymond’s property causing her alleged respiratory problems that she previously did not suffer from.
In the way of proof, Raymond says she has filmed the facility as visible clouds of something whitish emanating from the ventilation fans. Several videos of the events have been posted on YouTube under the heading “Powell Mesa Chicken Farm.” Raymond has submitted the videos as part of a complaint to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. She has also filed a formal complaint with Delta County saying that the terms of the approval are being violated.
Opponent Travis Jardon points to the apparent discharges as a reason that the County should have not allowed such facilities so close to residences and points out that ‘our climate is much drier than the more humid areas in mid-west they were originally designed for’.
As the summer heats up the fans could be on earlier, such as in the mornings when the prevailing winds move to the west/southwest away from Raymond’s property but directly towards the Town of Hotchkiss less than a mile away.
According to Ken Nordstrom of the Delta County Health Department the operators of the chicken barn have been trying to remedy the situation by adding water “misters” near the fans to mitigate the dust. Nordstrom inspected the facility at 9:30 a.m. one morning and did observe some dust exiting the fans and odors apparent for about ten yards away. Raymond says the major dust happens late in the day when it is warmest.
Raymond claims that after irrigation sprinklers were set up in front of the fans to raise the level of humidity, she filmed another video on June 20 showing roughly the the same amounts of dust exiting the facility as earlier seen.
Raymond, in her complaint to Delta County and to the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment, says that she has begun experiencing respiratory problems, has consulted doctors and now uses an inhaler. She says that her employees and horses have also exhibited effects from the dust.
Raymond is part of a group of neighbors to the Powell Mesa 15,000 layer facility, and of another identical one approved for east Redlands Mesa, who are suing Delta County, claiming that the County failed to follow its own regulations and master plan in approving the facilities last year. The final brief in that case was filed by the opponents on June 4, it being a reply to a County filed brief that in turn was the response to the neighbors’ initial filing.
The County, in its filing, denies that it went beyond its regulations or master plan or that the County Commissioners exceeded the boundaries of discretion in the approval made under the County’s Specific Development Regulations.
According to Jardon, further oral arguments have been skipped by CLUC and the case is now under deliberation by District Judge J. Steven Patrick with a decision expected in late June or early July. The neighbors have formed a group, Citizens for Land Use Compatibility (CLUC) that is raising funds to pay for mounting legal bills.
Raymond says that if CLUC loses the lawsuit she has information indicating there will be at least six more similar confinement chicken operations proposed for the area.
Construction on the Redlands Mesa barn has not yet begun, its developers apparently awaiting the results of Judge Patrick’s decision. The issue of how the county handled the chicken CAFO approval, and whether such facilities should even be reviewed, has become a topic of debate in this year’s District 3 County Commissioner election.
According to Nordstrom’s report, Western Slope Layers, operated by Edwin Hostetler, is now producing about 14,000 eggs per day from 15,000 chickens. If the dust continues to be a problem additional louvered walls may be constructed to attempt to mitigate the problem.