Egg production farm in Codorus Twp. draws residents' ire


A proposed large egg production facility on more than 100 acres of farmland in Codorus Township has ruffled the feathers of a few residents.

"For me, it's basically about the quality of life," said Brian Kaltreider, a vocal critic of the plan and leader of the Friends of York County Family Farmers. "From a citizen's (perspective), we have to protect our health. We're just trying the best we can. Our land is beautiful."

The site of the proposed facility along Snyder Mill Road is on land owned by Hillandale Gettysburg LP and is tucked in the rolling hills in the rural township.

Nearby residents have concerns narrow roads couldn't handle the likely increase in tractor-trailer traffic and the water table may not be able to support operations if the facility relies on wells instead of public water.

The plan, spearheaded by local farmer James Bailey, is near an existing Hillandale site in the 2800 block of Daron Road.

The proposal is in its early stages and still in the review phase. If approved, the facility could house as many as 1.7 million hens, Kaltreider said.

The plan: The facility on 126 acres in the 5200 block of Snyder Mill Road would include four 206-foot by 700-foot barns, a building to house egg packaging and offices, a large egg wash pond, parking for 84 vehicles and associated outbuildings, according to blueprints on file with the township.

As many as 75 employees would be working at the site during a peak shift, the plan says.

A separate set of blueprints calls for a feed mill to be built on an adjoining tract of land in the 2800 block of Daron Road, just north of the proposed egg production facility.

The names of Ephrata-based Team Ag and local farmer James Bailey appear on both blueprints while the Hillandale name appears on just the feed mill plan.

Bailey sold the Snyder Mill property to Hillandale in April, according to York County tax records.

He also once owned the Daron Road property, the site of the proposed feed mill, but sold it to Hillandale in 2007, records show.

Bailey declined comment when reached by phone Friday. Officials with Hillandale couldn't be reached for comment.

Hillandale gained national attention about a month ago when an undercover animal activist, unknowingly hired by the company, filmed thousands of chickens living in unsanitary conditions at the company's Gettysburg facility.

Hillandale responded to the footage, saying its "high standards were compromised by this undercover employee" in an isolated incident, according to a letter released June 9.

No sale: Though the proposal has not yet been approved by township supervisors, one resident said she's already been affected by it.

Linda Smith, 78, said she and her 80-year-old husband, Robert, are selling their home just across Snyder Mill Road from the proposed site so they can move into a retirement community.

A few months back, the couple had a buyer lined up, but the buyer backed out after learning of plans for the egg production facility.

The Smiths view their home as part of their retirement nest egg, but now they can't cash it in, Linda Smith said.

"Now we have a big, fat goose egg," she said. "I'd like to sell our home but I can't sell our home."

Health: Such a large operation also could cause health issues for nearby residents, according to a letter from six faculty members of Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The scholars said they have concerns about pathogens being spread from poultry operations to residents via insects or contaminated air or groundwater.

Chicken feces, containing heavy metals, drug residues and pathogens, have been known to leach into groundwater and could affect humans.

With such a large proposed operation, there would be a lot of chicken waste. It's estimated 1.7 million chickens would produce 323,000 pounds of waste daily, "roughly twice the equivalent amount of human waste generated daily by the entire city of Harrisburg," the letter says.

Members of the Friends of York County Family Farmers drafted a township health ordinance to address some of the issues raised in the letter.

It would require all concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to obtain a township health permit that would be valid for five years and submit to health inspections. It also regulates how close certain CAFOs can be to each other, among other things.

Township supervisors are expected to vote on the ordinance in the coming months.

Organized: For the past few months, the Friends of York County Family Farmers have been holding monthly meetings at the Jefferson Rifle Club, which is adjacent to the proposed site.

Last week, about a dozen people sat on metal folding chairs in a wood-paneled room of the club where a multi-point deer head hung on a wall, staring back at the audience as they heard updates from the core members of the group.

"It's a good turnout for our small meeting," said Carol Meckley, a core member, adding the group holds other meetings for all its members.

During the most recent meeting, Kaltreider and Meckley shared with attendees their recent efforts speaking with York County commissioners and about plans to reach out to state lawmakers and federal and state agencies, as well as efforts to raise awareness for their plight.

Toward the end of the meeting, the conversation shifted to how to pay an attorney the group hired.

Taking a cue from school groups and other social organizations, the concerned citizens group will sell subs, sandwiches and pizzas to help raise funds and also began soliciting donations online.

But the group knows it needs a legal foothold to oppose the facility.

Mixed in with the serious talk was the occasional joke or comical comment, lightening things up a bit.

"We try to have some fun. You don't attract people if you're serious all the time," Meckley said after the meeting. "It seems like we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off."

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.