UPDATE: Health dept. releases report following HIA complaint by Johns Hopkins

Health officials are responding after questions were raised by the Johns Hopkins Center For a Livable Future (‘CLF’).

A Health Impact Assessment (‘HIA’) report was conducted by the Wicomico County Health Department in April in relation to a ten-house poultry project proposed in Salisbury.

In a letter addressed on October 18, officials with Johns Hopkins say the report is filled with flaws.

“When you have very narrow questions or a very narrow view of what resources are being considered in a health impact assessment, then the conclusions are limited by that and can be off base in terms of what’s going to be protective of public health,” explains Dr. Jillian Fry, a program director with Johns Hopkins CLF.

The 40-page report was released to media on Friday.

Page 14 lists questions surrounding three health determinants: air quality, groundwater quality, and insect vectors.

In terms of groundwater, the report found the Paleochannel, which houses two water supply wells in Salisbury, is “vulnerable to contamination from both point and non-point sources.”

The report goes on to claim the paleo well field is “not presently susceptible to nitrate contamination.”

Four recommendations were made by the Wicomico County Health Department: adding setbacks, increased communication, a reduction of potential impacts from odors, and an increase in funding for data collection.

Dr. Fry tells 47ABC, the questions the department asked were not enough.

“There was only one health end point that was considered and there was also a misrepresentation of how susceptible the Paleochannel was be to nitrate contamination, so it’s actually more susceptible than reflected in the report,” she explains.

Also including in the report is a letter sent from Johns Hopkins CLF to the health department three months before the April report.

It summarizes human health concerns associated with industrial scale animal farming.

A spokesperson from the Wicomico County Health Department tells 47ABC the letter was sent requesting their input into the process; however, Dr. Fry insists Johns Hopkins CLF was never a stakeholder engaged in this process.

Also in a statement released Friday, the health department reports the HIA was conducted at the request of several stakeholders. They say several meetings were conducted with groups “such as the Circle of Leaders, Assateague Coastal Trust, Backbone Community Group of Somerset County, Westside Homeowners Association, Center for a Liveable Future, Moms Across America, and the Wicomico County Chapter of the NAACP.” 

CLF is asking the state to get involved. From there, they’d like to see another HIA performed.

47ABC spoke to the Wicomico County Health Department on Friday afternoon. They say there are currently no such plans.

Categories: Local News, Maryland