SPECIAL REPORT: East Texans complain about foul odors from local chicken farm

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PALESTINE, Texas (KETK) – Neighbors of a chicken farm in Palestine say they have been putting up with the farm’s foul smell for around two years and are tired of it.

“I love living out in the country,” Ricky Naismith, a Palestine resident says. “It’s a great setting. Great neighborhood. I really enjoy the surroundings out here.”

RELATED: Sanderson Farms still hiring, becomes one of East Texas’ largest employers

Naismith is one of several residents who have complained about a nauseating odor from a local chicken farm.

“The smell, it’s not all the time,” Naismith says. “It’s on and then its off.”

Naismith and his neighbors are frustrated. They say the wind will carry the odor to their properties frequently.

“We go through these cycles where there is no offensive odor, but then we go through these cycles where the odor is heavy in the air,” Darell Hortman, Naismith’s neighbor, says.

The chicken farm is less than half a mile away from Naismith’s property. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality conducted two investigations earlier this year. Investigators reported no odors at the time. A KETK News crew visited the property several weeks ago. At the time, a foul odor was detected.

According to the investigative report conducted in April by the TCEQ, the owners of the chicken houses are Luong’s Farm and P & D Farm. Each owns eight houses and both contract with Sanderson Farms to raise their birds.

“I stay over there and we don’t see nothing,” Pap Nguyen, owner of P&D Farms said in a phone call with KETK News. “I sometimes tell my brother go get in the bed. Go over there and sleep. We do very good.”

According to Andrew Keese, Ph.D., there are rules these facilities must follow.

“Chapter 101 of the Texas Administrative Code has a rule that covers odors,” says Keese, TCEQ Media Relations Specialist. “This rule prohibits sources from creating nuisance conditions. Additionally, there are rules in the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 382 that require poultry facility operator training and odor control plans for certain poultry facilities. This rule also includes specific response timeframes for poultry odor complaints based on the history of the facility.”

Sanderson Farms has a strict grower management plan these farms must also follow.

“What you do from time to time when you have a nuisance odor complaint that we have to address, we have people on staff that go down and do audits of them and make sure our growers and the farms they are managing are held to that standard that we require,” Pic Billingsley, Sanderson Farms Director of Development and Engineering says.

State Representative Cody Harris has heard the odor complaints and is looking into them.

“In our discussions with Sanderson, they tell us that they’ve gone out and met with the landowners several times,” Harris says. “They’ve tried to catch it at the right time when the smell is there. They have planted trees and bushes to try to block the wind from blowing across that direction as much. In their estimation, they’ve taken great strides to try and correct the measure.”

Harris asks that property owners with similar complaints to reach out to his office.

“We want to help you solve this problem. We have got a great relationship with Sanderson Farms and the TCEQ. I want to be part of the solution to this by bringing all sides together and making sure we get this solved.”

Naismith and his neighbors say they only ask for these chicken farms to be good neighbors.

“I know some of the chicken houses don’t have a smell. That’s all I am looking for, not to have a smell,” Naismith says. “I don’t want them to leave, I know people need their jobs. I’m glad it’s here for tax purposes and people’s employment, but I don’t feel like I should have to suffer just because they are raising chickens.”

KETK News also reached out to Luong Farms. Officials declined to comment.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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