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Tyson Announces Going Forward They Will Drill into the Columbia Aquifer for Their Cool Cell Pads, Where Columbia Water is Available

At the February 21, 2018 Accomack Board of Supervisors meeting, Tyson Foods’ Kevin Taylor announced that going forward, Tyson will drill into the Columbia Aquifer for their Cool Cell Pads, where Columbia water is available.

Accomack County Chairman Robert Crockett introduced the representatives and stated that at a meeting on February 6, 2018, Chairman Crockett, County Administrator Mason, Planning Department Director Morrison and Tyson’s Complex Manager Taylor and Growing Operations Manager Watkins had met and discussed enhanced use of the Columbia shallow aquifer.

Tyson’s representatives then spoke and made four points: 1) Tyson is not expanding the amount of chickens that will be processed at the plant, new buildings are replacing old non-performing houses 2)jobs are expanding at the plant along with new equipment and modern technology to create more out of the meat they are already processing, 3) they questioned the accuracy of information being spread, and 4) Tyson Foods, going forward, on the new houses will drill into the Columbia shallow aquifer for their cool cell pads. Tyson will also look at the availability of Columbia for retrofitting houses and they intend to “explore it on every single farm we have”.

Chairman Crockett then asked, did his understanding of the DEQ numbers mean that 66% of the water was for cooling? Mr. Taylor responded that the numbers are still to be worked out. Chairman Crockett then said at the February 6, 2018 meeting when they discussed Columbia water use he stated within seconds both Tyson representatives said “we can make that happen”. Chairman Crockett then said he appreciated their voluntary move.

Boardmember Chesser then stated Tyson would need to go through the same permit process to use the shallow wells as deep wells. Mr. Taylor responded “Yes”. Boardmember Chesser commended them for this move since the Columbia is less certain than Yorktown-Eastover and expressed his hope that DEQ would look into this issue and change their regulations to make it easier to use Columbia water. Mr. Taylor agreed.

Mr. Taylor then stated “We are doing this because we are good neighbors.”

Boardmember Wolf then noted this was voluntary program but that Tyson would require this on their farms. Mr. Taylor indicated they would have to meet the permit criteria and use the Columbia where it was available.

You can hear Tyson’s announcement starting at 28:50.

Accomack February 21, 2018 Board Meeting

For more information on the Eastern Shore’s groundwater, please examine Eastern Shore of Virginia Ground Water Resources

In the publication “Maintaining a Sustainable Groundwater Resource (February 2018) the presentation, by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Ground Water Committee’s hydrogeologist, indicated the most significant threat on the Shore due to over pumping is saltwater intrusion. Three ways were given to reduce potential for saltwater intrusion, a)Most Effective, maximize use of the water table aquifer (Columbia Aquifer) and surface water ponds, b)where possible withdraw close to the center spine where the freshwater lens is thickest, and c) reduce water use through low flow and various low water uses.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Ground Water Committee has long worked to encourage the use of the Columbia Aquifer including this in the most recent Eastern Shore of Virginia Groundwater Resource Protection and Preservation Plan (December 2013), the Accomack County Water Supply Plan (2011) and Northampton County Water Supply Plan (2011). The Committee has also awarded several Ground Water Awards to users of the Columbia and has worked to increase the use of water ponds for agricultural irrigation since these recharge from the Columbia.

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