NEWARK, Del.—Findings from a new University of Delaware study indicate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has overestimated the amount of chicken manure in nutrient runoff that originated with the Delmarva poultry industry and enters the Chesapeake Bay.
Researchers at the university, led by Dr. James L. Glancey, concluded that not only is the amount of chicken manure much less than what the EPA estimates but the nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations are also lower. The study factored in new management practices, feed technology and genetics that have improved poultry production efficiencies over the past 30 years. Glancey serves on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee and Agriculture Workgroup.
Estimates produced by the EPA blame Delmarva poultry industry chicken manure for 6 percent of all nutrient runoff into the bay. Those estimates were used in determining the agency’s mandated Watershed Implementation Plan to reduce nutrient runoff into the bay by 2020.
The study’s findings, however, assert that the EPA is overestimating manure levels about five-fold and that the agency is working under the assumption that nitrogen concentrations are one-and-a-half times greater and phosphorous concentrations two-and-a-half times greater than they actually are.
The difference is significant and has the potential to be disastrous for poultry growers in the bay watershed, said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Bay cleanup is going to cost billions of dollars. The agriculture industry is committed to doing its fair share to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, so it’s important that EPA gets the numbers right,” he said. “Errors at this level can translate into millions of misspent dollars, both private and public, with little improvement in bay water quality.”
Representatives of the Eastern Shore poultry industry presented information about the study to lawmakers earlier this month. The EPA Chesapeake Bay Workgroup plans to review the study.