Tri-Valley Herald: "Critics hope egg ranch does not hatch"
By Cheryl Winkelman, Staff Writer
Though it hasn't yet been given the final go-ahead, a proposed egg ranchnear Lathrop already has ruffled quite a few feathers. Neighbors and animal rights groups have flooded San Joaquin County's Community Development Department with letters of vociferous opposition.
Michael and Roberta Larkin wrote, "Our property lies parallel on theeast side of the proposed site of the egg facility. Therefore, thesmell will be intolerable." The 240,000-square-foot egg ranch is planned for 4000 W. Undine Rd.,which is west of Lathrop and the San Joaquin River. If built, it willbe near Lathrop's River Islands, an 11,000-unit housing development that is under construction. Up to 1 million chickens could inhabit the premises.
Another potential neighbor, William H. Reynolds, worried about themanure disposal. He mentioned four children who are home-schooled nearthe proposed site. "The potential health issues for these youngsters is obvious," he wrote.So far, the project has cleared one environmental hurdle.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District determined last week thecancer risk produced by the farm would be less than significant,according to county documents. Other county departments still need to analyze the egg farm, including the Public Health Department for vector control and Asian flu concerns,before it again reaches the county's Planning Commission for a vote, said County Planner Ray Hoo.
Meanwhile, animal rights activists are working with Lunardi's grocerystores, a family-owned chain with stores in Danville and Walnut Creek, to get the company to stop selling eggs from Olivera Family Limited Partnership, the company behind the egg ranch. They run a smaller eggranch in French Camp and previously operated an egg ranch in Gilroy. Company officials did not return telephone calls.
Fifteen animal advocacy groups also have banded together and created http://www.nomoreolivera.com. Christine Morrissey, a spokeswoman for East Bay Animal Advocates said, "our organization visited one of the previously owned facilities.... The conditions were completely unacceptable. The animals were living in filth."
Morrissey said the hens were confined to small wire enclosures. Often, their beaks are removed so they didn't peck each other to death. At the French Camp site, 250 to 300 birds die daily, she said. Though 90percent of egg-laying hens are raised in cages, Olivera Farms' sanitation practices are below par, Morrissey said. The operational practices of the Gilroy facility were deemed a publicnuisance by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 2002. Weekly inspections from the county's Department of Environmental Health tomonitor flies and manure clean-ups followed, according to county documents.
In late 2005, the poultry operation was shut down. Complaints have also been filed with San Joaquin County's Department ofEnvironmental Health about Olivera Farms' French Camp egg ranch about the bad smell.
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