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Hickmans Working On Dust Control Plan After Air Quality Power Shift

Power has shifted in who monitors air quality around the small town of Tonopah near the giant Hickmans egg-laying facility. This comes after years of locals fighting for more control.

At a workshop Thursday, Maricopa County Air Quality Department officials fielded questions from Tonopah locals. Residents asked about consequences of changing a rule’s wording.

Their real concerns are with the rancid ammonia odor that comes from the waste of millions of Hickman’s chickens, as well as dust from trucks transporting manure.

Linda Butler is from Tonopah.

“We’ve got kids with bloody noses, with nausea to the point that they’re losing weight," she said. "We have made numerous complaints to the county and to the state about this issue.”

MCAQD Director Phil McNeely said now, he has the jurisdiction instead of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), to make Hickman’s check its dust.

“Up to this point we’ve been working with DEQ and DEQ has said that AgBMP’s apply, and you guys disagree and I actually disagree too,” he said at the workshop.

BMP’s are agricultural best management practices. The state’s previous administration interpreted the law to say it had control over dust in Tonopah. Essentially the state said two weeks ago they are not supposed to have power over Tonopah’s dust, the county is because of its location.

ADEQ, under new leadership, has switched jurisdiction over dust in Tonopah, west of Buckeye, to the county.

And McNeely said Hickman’s is currently working on a dust control plan for the county to review soon

RELATED: Rural Community Feel Hopeful In Fight Against Hickmans Egg Ranch

The county is also updating old rules, and held a workshop about changing the wording to be less vague.

McNeely said the rule being changed, number 320, helps give their inspectors more authority and specific actions to take in case of a complaint.

“Our inspectors will have authority with existing rules," he said. "And that’s what we’re trying to do with Rule 320. We’re not trying to put things in there that we can’t regulate because we have a big fat rule book, and we have authority, it’s just if we can use the authority or not.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has filed at least two information requests to Hickman's checking its compliance with the Clean Air Act at both its Tonopah and Arlington facilities. The EPA asked for information from January 2011 through May 2016. 

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.