Delta County to resolve kerfuffle over chickens

A critical decision by Delta County commissioners on a controversial 15,000-hen egg-laying operation on Powell Mesa is expected Monday.

It has been more than six weeks since Delta County held a special public hearing on two applications by Edwin Hostetler, one for the currently operating cage-free chicken farm, and another for a similar operation proposed for Redlands Mesa.

That hearing was the result of an August decision by a district court judge, who remanded the case back to commissioners for further public testimony.

According to opponents of the operations, the county’s own regulations state that a decision must be made within 14 days of the public hearing. When that deadline came and went, the opponents group filed again in district court, on Oct. 12, seeking action.

The county late this week scheduled an agenda item for its public meeting at 2 p.m. Monday at the Delta County Courthouse, Room 236.

“The commissioners will deliberate and make their decision” then, said Delta County Administrator Robbie LeValley.

No more public testimony will be taken, she said.

“I seriously doubt that this would have been on the agenda for Monday had we not filed a motion for an entry of judgment,” said Travis Jardon, a plaintiff in the action and potential new neighbor of the facility planned for Redlands Mesa.

“There’s just been some bizarre stuff going on.”

This past Monday, county commissioners heard the results from a “snapshot” air quality study commissioned by Delta County at the egg-laying facility in operation, just steps from another filing plaintiff, veterinarian Susan Raymond.

She has complained of ill health effects from dust, dander and bacteria from the Hostetler farm next door.

“The conclusions were basically that this is typical of a confined animal feeding operation,” said Ken Nordstrom, Delta County’s environmental health director.

After two hours of taking air and soil samples, the study found that “most of the discharge was basically mineral dust — it was just dirt particles, particles from the soil,” Nordstrom said.

“The bacteria and molds found were pretty typical of what you would find in dander of chickens and decomposition of chicken manure,” he added.

Jardon called the study “a joke.”

He said the high-powered tunnel ventilation system was not running when samples were taken, something Nordstrom confirmed.

“It was nothing like what you would see blowing out of there when the curtains are down and the tunnel ventilation system is ripping full-steam,” Jardon said.

“They pretty much gamed the system.”

About the Monday decision, Jardon said, “We hold out hope that they’ll wake up and smell the coffee.”

But, “(county commissioners) refuse to accept the fact that there can be some things that are incompatible and should be denied,” he said.


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