Chicken farm protesters say councilmember who owns farm not listening to concerns

Posted at 7:30 PM, Sep 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-22 01:53:20-04

Several Tonopah residents spoke out at a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting this morning, asking Supervisor Clint Hickman to excuse himself from any decisions involving air quality in the county.

A big request that Hickman declined to accept. Residents, who have filed dozens of complaints against Hickman Family Farms in Tonopah, felt their voices were not being heard. That is because Hickman co-owns the farm with his brother.

The Desert Pride Facility in Tonopah housed more than 3 million hens and they continue to grow. The facility also processes manure that ships out to other facilities to turn into compost. 

Concerned residents worried about air quality, water safety, and public health. A group called STOPP, or Save Tonopah Oppose Poultry Plants, was created; its members said they have filed 184 complaints just in the last year, mostly about the air quality and smell in the area.

"It smells like rotten eggs, ammonia, it's vile," said Linda Wood, a concerned resident with asthma. She added that she was now taking breathing treatments and using her emergency inhaler more, due to the smell.

An environmental manager at Hickman Family Farms said the company was in compliance with all county and state standards. 

"We do our best, this is a farm that features living, breathing animals just like humans, we absolutely do our best in everything that we do," said Supervisor Clint Hickman in an interview with ABC15. 

He added that they had many regulations they had to follow, and while they had some violations the company was on top of everything. 

"No one is perfect, what we like to do is when there is anything that comes up, we fix it, we fix it right for the long term," said Hickman.

County officials sent ABC15 letters showing that Hickman was already excusing himself from participating in decisions involving his family farm, but residents felt any vote on air quality issues was a conflict of interest.

Hickman said he had heard their concerns, but did not agree.

"It is a huge county, if it affects the entire Maricopa County region, I'm not recusing myself from anything," said Hickman.

Residents from STOPP said they had received documents indicating the EPA was now investigating the farm. 

"We're happy to finally get somebody looking into it, somebody taking it seriously," said Lorna Proper, a member of STOPP.