Chicken manure may ease pollution

June 22, 2001

The Associated Press

Chicken producers and coal mine operators may have found a common solution to their environmental problems: chicken manure.

State and federal officials are using chicken manure to reclaim an old F&M Coal site in Preston County.

The manure has increased the density of plant life at the site, and phosphates that it contains have helped neutralize acid mine drainage, said Ken Haid of the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Haid said chicken manure produces better results at about half the cost of traditional reclamation methods. The only drawback is the cost of transporting manure to the site, so the arrangement works best at sites within 100 miles of a chicken farm.

"That's the thing. It's going to be real site-specific," Haid said. Mining sites in north-central West Virginia would benefit more than those in southern West Virginia because of their proximity to the Eastern Panhandle's poultry industry.

The process also could reduce water pollution in the Eastern Panhandle, where storm water washes through the region's chicken farms and picks up phosphates from the manure.

The West Virginia Development Office has contracted with Al Stiller, a chemical engineering professor at West Virginia University, to analyze the results of the demonstration project.

Stiller said the project could bring the poultry industry to mountainous areas where crop farming is limited, because chicken houses can sit anywhere.

Jeff Herholdt, manager of the West Virginia Development Office's energy efficiency program, said he did not know if the project could lure poultry farms to mountainous areas near mines. But he said it could help ease one of the poultry industry's biggest headaches: disposing of chicken manure.

"We want to see the poultry industry expand in West Virginia," he said. Federal and state officials plan to show the Preston County site Friday to coal company representatives, landowners and mine reclamation contractors.