Residents complain turkey manure smells at York Co. farm

A pile of turkey manure at York County’s Boyd Farms. Neighbors say piles of the manure sat uncovered for months until they made formal complaints.
A pile of turkey manure at York County’s Boyd Farms. Neighbors say piles of the manure sat uncovered for months until they made formal complaints. Courtesy of Tonya Barrett

Health inspectors are investigating the handling of turkey manure at a York County farm, after neighbors complained of an ever-present stench from the farm’s manure piles.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is seeking to bring Boyd Farms into compliance after receiving multiple complaints about the amount of turkey-based fertilizer at the Williamson Road property and how it has been stored and applied.

Nearby property owners have seen piles of manure on the property for months, but their main complaint is how it smells.

“When you get to Bible study on Wednesday, after the day’s gone through, you’re barely able to breathe,” said Bobby Glover, pastor of New Zion Baptist Church, which borders the Boyd property.

Glover said several “mountain-high,” uncovered piles of the manure have been visible on the property for months leading up to the cotton-growing season. In that time, the smell permeates “every crack and crevice” of the old country church.

“You can smell it during services. You can smell it during funerals,” he said. “When we have feedings in the church, we have the biggest flies you’ve ever seen.”

Kim Hill, whose family property is bracketed by Boyd farmland, said, “It makes you want to vomit. It never goes away. It’s just sitting there. It must cover a 10-mile radius... there’s thousands of acres.”

DHEC said it received three complaints from property owners bordering the farm in March. DHEC determined Boyd Farm and two smaller farmers in the area by the same broker had improperly stored and applied turkey litter.

Health rules require turkey litter be spread within three days of its acquisition and not more than 30 days from planting seasons. Multiple neighbors report seeing manure piles on the property as early as November.

“This regulation requires that, if the litter is stockpiled for more than three days, it must be covered,” said DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley. DHEC also requires litter must be stored on a concrete pad and covered with black plastic to prevent fly breeding.

Neighbors report the piles of poultry fecal matter were exposed to the elements until recently.

Attempts to reach Boyd Farms or its owner, Steve Boyd, for comment were unsuccessful.

Residents in the surrounding New Zion community say the manure was spread or removed after DHEC complaints were filed. Glover said overturning the piles causes the smell to get worse.

“It’s like when a dog makes a mess in your yard,” he said. “You don’t notice it until you step in it.”

Removing the piles did lessen the odor, and Glover says the piles of manure “left a circle where you can see some pretty green grass.”

Spreading the manure has caused other concerns for Tonya Barrett, whose home abuts the cotton field.

“It’s less than 50 feet from my well,” Barrett said. “I drink that water. I use it to brush my teeth.”

DHEC prohibits waste from being spread within 200 field of a property line without the property owner’s permission. Barrett said she was never contacted about the application of the turkey manure. She’s submitted water samples to DHEC for analysis. Beasley said DHEC has “not determined that any health or environmental concerns have resulted from these activities.”

DHEC has asked Boyd and another farmer to attend a compliance meeting. “Before ever considering whether to take formal enforcement action that can include civil penalties, we conduct a compliance meeting, in which we discuss the matter with the involved individuals with the intent of returning the site to compliance,” Beasley said.

Glover said he has experience with DHEC’s penalties as his father-in-law once spread turkey manure on his property near Heath Springs, and was assessed a more than $200 fine because his property sits on the water line.

A violation of DHEC regulations, Beasley said, could incur up to a $10,000 fine per day of the violation.

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome