Allen Harim’s Harbeson chicken processing plant will soon stop discharging wastewater into a nearby creek as part of a recent agreement the company made with Artesian Wastewater Management.
According to the agreement, Artesian will construct a pipeline to direct the Harbeson processing plant’s wastewater to a water recycling facility north of Milton.
Construction will take about 18 months and Artesian will use the wastewater as spray irrigation on agricultural land.
“We’ve already heard positive comments from some neighbors about ‘hey, you’re doing the right thing and we appreciate what you’re doing’,” Allen Harim President and CEO Joe Moran said, “and they understand it’s going to be an 18-months cycle.”
Meanwhile, the plant will continue to discharge wastewater into Beaverdam Creek. Moran said though it will take time, the pipeline is the most viable solution.
Maria Payen from the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project said the agreement is a victory for a community that’s been dealing with the processing plant for decades. But she remains skeptical about what will happen over the next 18 months.
"Eighteen months is a pretty long time," Payen said. "Why isn’t there a way to do this quicker and what are the terms of the pipeline. Who is paying that? Is a public-private partnership, is it the taxpayer, who is taking on the cost of this?"
Suzanne Thurman, the executive director of the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute, said the pipeline sounds like it would resolve residential concerns; but she said it is still unclear how the final product could affect the water table.
“The fact that they’re getting [the wastewater] out of the natural ecosystem is very positive,” Thurman said. “That’s a huge improvement.”
A press release states the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has loaned Allen Harim $11 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility. Additionally, $5 million will support a one-time impact fee to Artesian. Artesian will invest $17 million in infrastructure improvements.