CWFNC’s Amanda Strawderman flies over poultry operation in Cleveland County, NC

In 2019, it came to CWFNC’s attention that poultry operations were spreading across North Carolina at an alarming speed. Our state agencies were not only lax in regulating these facilities, but they did not know where or how many existed.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are the main, industrialized method of producing animal products in the US. According to USDA census data, when evenly distributed, the average broiler CAFO in North Carolina sells nearly half a million chickens for meat annually. The waste generated by these millions of animals and spread without measure on nearby land is certainly cause for concern.

Neighbors of such operations, often rural, low-income communities, could be living with air quality issues and well water impacts that have yet to be documented in any official manner. Overapplication of animal manure as fertilizer leads to build-ups that runoff or leach into adjacent water sources. Groundwater contamination from CAFOs could negatively be impacting nearby households that depend on private wells for safe drinking water. Surface waters polluted by nutrients have increased algae growth and decreased amounts of dissolved oxygen, eventually leading to dead zones where fish and plants cannot survive.

Addressing air and groundwater impacts as well as environmental justice issues related to unregulated poultry operations is CWFNC’s newest project.

This page will continue to be updated as the project progresses. Sign up for news and information below…


Click on our fact sheets below to learn more!

Learn more about health risks associated with Poultry Operations, including drinking water and air quality contamination

Learn more about lax North Carolina laws regulating Poultry Operations

Learn more about sources of water and air pollution from Poultry Operations