Opponents of a proposed Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant near Fayetteville in Cumberland County, North Carolina, are pointing to a federal database that states the company has been in non-compliance for wastewater permits at six of its plants during the past three years. The Sanderson Farms project adversaries are hoping that the records, maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, will help convince public officials to say no to the proposed plant.

However, Sanderson Farms spokesman Pic Billingsley told the Fayetteville Observer that the violations are minor and based on a small percentage of monitoring samples out of thousands each year. Some of the violations were for exceeding limits on fecal coliform, a bacterium from animal waste, discharged into streams and creeks in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

"The regulator people consider fecal to be a minor violation," said Billingsley.

The database shows no fines were levied against Sanderson Farms in the past three years.

City, county to hold public hearing

The Fayetteville City Council and Cumberland County Board of Commissioners have scheduled a joint public hearing September 22 to consider a tax incentives offer to Sanderson Farms.

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A previous meeting was held September 2, organized by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.  

Fayetteville's plant would be similar to the company's plant in Kinston, which opened in 2011 with a wastewater facility. Treated wastewater would be sprayed onto nearby fields, rather than directly into waterways. The Kinston plant has not been found to be out of compliance with environmental regulations.

Several city and county officials have visited a plant in nearby Kinston, North Carolina, and met with Billingsley, Sanderson Farms director of development and engineering.

Despite its critics, the potential Sanderson Farms project is backed by the Fayetteville chamber. Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson and Jeannette Council, chairwoman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, also favor building the Sanderson Farms plant.