Information has been given to us that an Environmental Resource Permit has been granted to build a chicken farm just a little over a mile southwest of Fort White, contiguous with SW Wilson Springs Road and SW Briarpatch Terrace. The permit, which can be seen at this link, (note, if all internal links in the permit document are not active, see note below) authorizes the construction of 12 chicken houses, each 44’ by 500’ which is about 22,000 square feet each. Each structure can house up to about 26 o 30 thousand birds, for a potential total of about 360,000 chickens. The Florida Administrative Code which outlines the rules for this type of facility, Rule Chapter 62-670, can be seen at this link.
Columbia County has designated this Land Use for AG-3 and according to the County Planner, any sort of agriculture is allowed without permits or posting to the neighbors. The property encompasses 77 acres and the entire project, under roof, will add up to about 6.5 acres total.
Even though the manure from the chickens is designated to be removed from this location, the potential for pollution is cause for concern, especially given the proximity of the Santa Fe River (appx. 1.5 miles) and the fact that the river is already high in nitrates and is on the DEP list of impaired waterways and is a designated Outstanding Florida Waterway. The plan is for the manure to be marketed as organic fertilizer, as this is the trend as farmers try to rely less on man-made chemical fertilizers. Chicken waste has one of the highest nitrate values of all solid wastes, as explained at this link.
It would therefore seem wise to recommend that people residing nearby get their wells tested. Ideally it should be done immediately and once again about the time the chickens move in, before the chicken raising has begun, in order to have a baseline for comparison. Then, after the farm has been operating, the wells should be tested periodically. Of main concern might be nitrates and fecal coliform presence.
Below are two labs where this might be done:
A more thorough water test can be done here:
Green Water Lab in Palatka, FL.