SWAN QUARTER, N.C. — For years, Hyde County has been working to lure a multimillion-dollar chicken plant. The county is very close to getting it, but the region's economic boost may be tempered by the plant's environmental impact.
The unemployment rate in Hyde County has been as high as 14 percent, but now the nation's second-largest egg producer, a company in Indiana, wants to build an egg-laying facility in the county. It would create 125 jobs and bring in 4 million chickens.
"Our farmers are excited about that," extension agent Mac Gibbs said. "It's environmentally sound 100 percent."
John McAden also farms next to the site, but he has a different view on the proposed plant.
"I really do think that they feel like that this is the second coming of Jesus Christ, and I just don't believe that," farmer John McAden said. "What's going to happen when the temperature gets 100 degrees up here and these birds start dying like fleas."
McAden said he is worried about a ditch that would be near the proposed plant that flows directly into Pungo River.
"Do we want groundwater to get into these things and go out there to Pungo River? The Pamlico Sound has enough problems without adding to it," he said.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has estimated that this facility will emit 4.8 million pounds of ammonia each year," said Heather Jacobs, riverkeeper of the Pamlico-Tar River. "Ammonia is an extra source of nitrogen into this coastal plain of which is already in nutrient-sensitive waters."
"The facility will be environmentally safe. That's what we've been working on for three years, to prove that it will be environmentally safe," Hyde County planner Alice Keeney said.
After three years of work, officials said a $55 million investment is close.
"We need young people to stay that have good jobs," Wade said.
"There are just too many questions and not enough answers," McAden said.
State environmentalists are holding public hearings on the plant. They have to decide whether to issue a water quality permit. That decision is expected this fall.