DEQ Decreases Poultry House Water Use Estimates

Map of withdrawal permitting

By Linda CicoiraThe Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says it has a better handle on the amount of water that will be needed by big users like poultry houses in Accomack County. The new figure is about 62 percent less than what the agency reported last year.

“You were told 3.1 million gallons (per day) would be needed,” Joseph Grist, of DEQ, said Wednesday. “That was the worse case assumption. … Now we have much better information …  that the use will be 1.179 million gallons.”

The DEQ came to the conclusion by using “slide numbers based on the 54 facilities, review of meter data, and the most recent scientific literature on cooling water used from a study of 10 years of meter data on the Delmarva,” Grist said.

Those attending a permit briefing held in Onley this week were shown a slide show that stated the initial number was for all 83 Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) facilities and the latter figure was for 54 with a consent special order (CSO) water use distribution.

The presentation was given by Scott Kudlas, director of the state Office of Water Supply. “Withdrawals fluctuate over the year,” Kudlas said. “Consumption is based on bird age” with more water being used when it is 80 degrees or hotter outside. For example, he said, a farm could use 645,000 total gallons in July, 511,000 total gallons in September, and 330,000 total gallons in December.

The permits are being evaluated by DEQ based on “demand justification – amount requested and need; alternatives analysis – evaluation of other sources; (and) technical evaluation – potential impacts to confined aquifers and other existing withdrawals,” Kudlas said.

A groundwater permit is required for any facility withdrawing more than 300,000 gallons in any month, from all wells. In September 2018, consent special orders were issued to 56 poultry farms. Fifty-four facilities require a permit.

Draft permits may include monthly and annual withdrawal limits, withdrawal metering and reporting requirements, mitigation plan for adverse impacts, and water conservation and management plans. Special conditions may include geophysical logging, well abandonment, camera surveys, water quality monitoring, and alternative source evaluation.

Notices will be published in the Eastern Shore Post on May 24. The public comment period is from May 24 to July 12. Public hearings will be held at 6 p.m. on the following dates and locations: Monday, June 24, at Arcadia High School, in Oak Hall; Tuesday, June 25, at the Eastern Shore Community College, in Melfa; and Wednesday, June 26, at Northampton High School, in Eastville.

After the comment deadline, draft permits could be revised and a summary of public comments and the DEQ response will be made available. On Sept. 6, DEQ staff will present draft permits and public comments to the State Water Control Board for approval.

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