RIVERKEEPER SPOTLIGHT: Avian Flu

Mounds of what appears to composting could be seen at one poultry facility struck by avian flu in the Lower Neuse river basin.

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell and Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop spent Wednesday in the field this week, flying over poultry facilities with confirmed cases of avian flu.

“Since March 28, there have been nine facilities with confirmed cases in North Carolina, all of which are in Johnston and Wayne counties,” Jill said. “We saw what appeared to be large compost piles in rows alongside the barns at a number of facilities.”

She said they will continue to monitor the composting operations and all forms of disposal of poultry impacted by the flu to make sure there are no water-quality impacts during disposal of the birds. To dispose of birds in such a huge quantity, the options are either composting or mass burial, both of which can have impacts on adjacent surface waters or groundwaters if not done properly. The lack of transparency in North Carolina’s poultry industry means Riverkeepers have to hunt for the locations of outbreaks and disposal methods being used, which presents a barrier to monitoring water-quality impacts.

Later Wednesday, the two Riverkeepers scouted the Lower Neuse river basin for potential water-quality sampling sites near swine CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), collecting samples to analyze for E. coli near Pollocksville and Trenton.

This map shows facilities hit by avian flu in the Neuse watershed (data from the NC Department of Agriculture and USDA). The pawprints represent industrial turkey facilities; the ducks, broiler chicken facilities. The Neuse River can be seen in the upper part of the photo. 

Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop takes water samples near an industrial swine facility close to Trenton.