Aiken Co. Council asks DHEC to deny chicken farm permit

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Sep. 11, 2013


AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Horses are a way of life for Matthew Fonseca.

"I have a training operation. I buy 'green' horses and train them. I play professionally all across the country,” says Fonseca, who specializes in polo.

At his ranch near Webbs Pond Road in Aiken County, polo is more than just a sport, it's a serious business.

"I try to buy them, trade them, sell them, and that sort of deal. I was thinking of doing a breeding operation out of here. I've been entertaining that thought,” he says.

But less than a mile away, a chicken farm could soon hatch, which could complicate things for Fonseca and many of his equestrian neighbors. He fears the possible smell of chicken manure in the air.

"I couldn't imagine what it'd be like living next to one,” he says. “The spores that would be put in the air would affect my horses just as it does humans."

According to a Department of Health and Environmental Control application, owner Jerry Kinsey wants to turn his nearby land into the chicken farm, complete with room for six houses that'll hold up to 240,000 birds at any given time.

After a public hearing in the spring, DHEC is still considering the permit.

But Last night, at an Aiken County Council meeting, neighbors got a sigh of relief.

Councilwoman Kathy Rawls introduced and passed a resolution that'll ask DHEC to deny the permit.

"I think Kathy Rawls is representing the people, and the people have spoken and said we don't want it. It's not needed here. You know, it would just totally ruin many people's lives,” says Fonseca.

Nearby, neighbor Janet Bassett and husband Jim know the fight may not be over. DHEC could still ignore the County Council's request.

"We would never be able to open our windows again. We would never be able to sit outside, unless we'd be smelling that. You know, it's a depressing issue,” says Bassett.

But the county's resolution specifically spells out why the chicken houses could be bad. One argument is that manure and other materials could pollute nearby ponds that eventually flow into the South Edisto River. The Aiken Gopher Tortoise Heritage Reserve is nearby too.

Land-owner Kinsey was unaware of the resolution. For now, he had no comment about what it’ll mean to the operation.

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