There have been significant distortions of fact surrounding the potential construction of a poultry processing facility in Nash County. The construction of a facility like the one Sanderson Farms proposes would create an economic boost for the area while providing much needed jobs for the local work force. Unfortunately, these distortions by a few seriously threaten a tremendous economic opportunity for our citizens. The employment benefit of 1,100 jobs would extend beyond the Nash County area to include a multi-county labor shed of eager job seekers. The Twin County area has a current unemployment rate of 11.8 percent and Wilson has a rate of 11.1 percent (September 2010). According to figures from the Employment Security Commission there are approximately 3,500 applicants currently active with experience in assembly line, food or tobacco processing, or related experience. It is highly likely that the majority of these applicants would possess the types of skills and/or background required by Sanderson Farms.
There have been misleading communications regarding the rumored low wages that this company would be paying, when the fact is that the projected average weekly wage would be $501. Additionally the potential workers at this facility would receive 75 percent of their individual and/or family health insurance coverage paid by the company. Also, having a poultry processing plant in the area would increase economic opportunities for farmers in Nash and several surrounding counties. Considering that 2010 was a very disappointing year for tobacco, some farmers will have an opportunity for greater profitability with poultry farming with an estimated $28 million in annual contract payments to farmers pumped into the regional economy.
This community has an obligation to work to create fair paying jobs with health insurance. The Twin Counties region is always being asked to create jobs for the former textile workers of our area. Sanderson Farms offers the potential to create those jobs in our area to assist those displaced workers with new opportunities.
Opponents of the project have made many misleading comments as to the environmental impact and safety of this proposed project. The truth is the potential processing plant and hatchery sites would be located in the Tar River protected watershed. This watershed allows for these agricultural and industrial uses but requires that on-site measures be constructed to control runoff and reduce nutrients. The irrigation/spray fields would be located in the Toisnot watershed which drains into Wilson County. The processed water from the facility would be fully treated by an on-site wastewater plant and disinfection station, which would remove nutrients and contaminants to levels not detrimental to the streams, wells or fields in the surrounding area. Furthermore, nutrients in the wastewater applied to the spray fields may not exceed the agronomic rates of the crops. Crops will be cultivated in the spray fields year-round and will ultimately be harvested.
Land treatment systems such as this are commonly used. These irrigated spray fields act as a living filter to remove remaining nutrients so that the finished water filtered through the soil will meet or exceed drinking water standards. The proposed wastewater plant and land treatment systems must be permitted and monitored by the N.C. Department of Environment of Natural Resources and operated under Title 15A, Subchapter 2T “Waste not Discharged to Surface Waters” of the North Carolina Administrative Code.
The proposed facility would use approximately 1 million to 1.2 million gallons of water per day in processing and wash-down operations. The water will be supplied by the city of Rocky Mount via a network of waterlines owned and operated by Nash County and potentially augmented by on-site wells. The city of Rocky Mount water resources staff has carefully evaluated the needs of the industry and is confident that sufficient water resources are available to meet the industrial demands without adversely affecting existing customers. The recent connections to the city of Wilson were installed for exceptional drought circumstances, such as the statewide drought in 2007, and were not part of evaluating daily water needs of the industry and other customers.
There have been comments made concerning the potential for odor associated with the processing plant and spray fields. The fact is, there is no detectable odor outside of the processing plant, hatchery or spray field locations. The only emissions from the proposed plant would be steam from water heating boilers. The on-site wastewater treatment plant would include a lagoon covered with a high density floating blanket to trap the gas byproducts and route them back into the processing facility to be recycled for fuel use or burned off by a flare. Any water released at the spray fields already would have been fully treated, eliminating any odors.
Nash County citizens have to realize that if high unemployment persists in the Twin Counties and adjoining communities, there will be an increase in social problems which leads to a strain on schools, hospitals, increased crime and increased drug use. Nash County citizens, I urge you to share the facts. Don’t buy in to the rumor mill, and you will assist in providing 1,100 jobs to your neighbors, your friends and family, your fellow worshipers, your community.
Carolinas Gateway Partnership