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Pilot at fault in fungicide spread, DOA says

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By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

Dept. of Agriculture says chemicals applied illegally in bird deaths

The Department of Agriculture findings lend credence to Michael Vaden’s claims that a neighboring dairy farm’s crop dusting practices led to the sickness and death of over 20 exotic birds that were to be a part of the coming Georgia Zoo and Safari Park next spring. Michael Vaden, one of the founders of the coming zoo, blames the crop dusting, spread via airplane, from Everett Williams’ dairy farm for contaminating his property, the River Farm Run aviary, leading to sickness in his family and the death of his exoctic birds. The State Department of Agriculture’s (DOA) investigation tested Vaden’s soil, which tested positive for the fungicide chemical used in crop dusting. The DOA ruled that the pilot, of Smith Aviation, hired to perform crop dusting for Williams’ Dairy, spread the fungicide for crop dusting illegally. Tara Cooner, county planner, reported to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners that the DOA has confirmed taking legal action against the pilot, but not the dairy farm, yet. According to Cooner, as of right now, the dairy was only given the report citing the pilot’s fault in crop dusting improperly. “The Department of Agriculture found that it was applied illegally. Crop dusting is legal but it was applied illegally. According to the Department of Agriculture investigator, it was not applied consistent with the label,” explained Cooner. Cooner also noted the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) debunked some of the other complaints leveled against Williams’ dairy farm by surrounding neighbors. Complaints included concerns over the improper use and disposal of liquid manure, fearing run-off would contaminate neighbors’ ponds and wells. However, the EPD found that the pond in question had an algae problem unrelated to manure contamination and that the well in question would be “unlikely” to become contaminated as a result of Williams’ liquid manure disposal because it is a drilled well. The EPD did note that a nearby creek did test positive for manure contamination because of rainfall that occurred directly after Williams’ spread manure on his fields. The unexpected run-off carried some of the manure down into the creek. Everett Williams, too, appeared before the BOC on the Oct. 7 to defend his business and his integrity against the recent allegations and complaints against his farming practices. Williams maintained that not only is he a good citizen, but an efficient and ecologically-minded farmer. “I’m sorry for these happenings and inconveniences,” said Williams. “Some of these complaints are more serious and may end up in court, but I guess that’s just the cost of doing business. We’ve gone back and cleaned up any mistakes, we’ve redesigned our facility, and we have had more training with the employees to make sure everything is done right, but as far as us being called bad citizens, I take exception to that.” Williams believes some of the complaints leveled against the farm are unavoidable. “Some of it is just what happens when you have a dairy in the county,” said Williams. Williams recounted to the BOC his many years working with environmental groups to ensure his farm is “the poster child” for sound ecological practices. Williams pointed to his farm being nominated for Conservationist Stewardship of the Year and winning Conservationist of the year five times. He also pointed to his work with the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of the America (FFA), and his partnership with the University of Georgia to implement efficient recycling practices. “We do the best job we can do,” said Williams. “We work very hard to handle our manure in a ecologically sound manner, and I think we do a good job of it,” said Williams. “We do a tremendous amount of work trying to serve this county. We do all we can to contribute back to the county to make this a better place to live.” Williams had no comments regarding the crop dusting allegations concerning the 20-plus dead exotic birds belonging to Vaden. According to Cooner, the county will continue to document the case, but will only play a “supportive role” to investigating state authorities and will not be taking action of their own in any of these matters concerning the dairy farm. it was not applied consistent with the label,” explained Cooner. Cooner also noted the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) debunked some of the other complaints leveled against Williams’ dairy farm by surrounding neighbors. Complaints included concerns over the improper use and disposal of liquid manure, fearing run-off would contaminate neighbors’ ponds and wells. However, the EPD found that the pond in question had an algae problem unrelated to manure contamination and that the well in question would be “unlikely” to become contaminated as a result of Williams’ liquid manure disposal because it is a drilled well. The EPD did note that a nearby creek did test positive for manure contamination because of rainfall that occurred directly after Williams’ spread manure on his fields. The unexpected run-off carried some of the manure down into the creek. Everett Williams, too, appeared before the BOC on the Oct. 7 to defend his business and his integrity against the recent allegations and complaints against his farming practices. Williams maintained that not only is he a good citizen, but an efficient and ecologically-minded farmer. “I’m sorry for these happenings and inconveniences,” said Williams. “Some of these complaints are more serious and may end up in court, but I guess that’s just the cost of doing business. We’ve gone back and cleaned up any mistakes, we’ve redesigned our facility, and we have had more training with the employees to make sure everything is done right, but as far as us being called bad citizens, I take exception to that.” Williams believes some of the complaints leveled against the farm are unavoidable. “Some of it is just what happens when you have a dairy in the county,” said Williams. Williams recounted to the BOC his many years working with environmental groups to ensure his farm is “the poster child” for sound ecological practices. Williams pointed to his farm being nominated for Conservationist Stewardship of the Year and winning Conservationist of the Year five times. He also pointed to his work with the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of the America (FFA), and his partnership with the University of Georgia to implement efficient recycling practices. “We do the best job we can do,” said Williams. “We work very hard to handle our manure in a ecologically sound manner, and I think we do a good job of it,” said Williams. “We do a tremendous amount of work trying to serve this county. We do all we can to contribute back to the county to make this a better place to live.” Williams had no comments regarding the crop dusting allegations concerning the 20-plus dead exotic birds belonging to Vaden. According to Cooner, the county will continue to document the case, but will only play a “supportive role” to investigating state authorities and will not be taking action of their own in any of these matters concerning the dairy farm.

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