Tonopah Residents Trying to Stop the Building of a 2-Million-Chicken Hickman's Factory

Residents of the community of Tonopah are trying to stop Hickman's Family Farms from building a new facility that will house about 2.2 million hens, and possibly more.

A citizens' group calling themselves Save Tonopah Oppose Poultry Plant (STOPP) have filed a lawsuit with the intention of having a county judge declaring the plant a nuisance, and ordering a halt the building of the plant.

"It's pretty clear to me it'll be a nuisance once it's operation," STOPP's attorney Howard Shanker tells New Times. "There are other places that they could put this thing."

See also: -Clint Hickman, of Hickman's Eggs, Chosen as New Maricopa County Supervisor

The lawsuit alleges the facility will generally disrupt the lives of people who reside in Tonopah, an unincorporated community about 50 miles west of downtown Phoenix.

"The facility will inevitably stink," the lawsuit states. "It will also provide a breeding place for flies and mosquitoes, introduce noise and truck traffic to this sleepy rural community, and create myriad other significant environmental/health related impacts where none presently exist."

The lawsuit also points out concerns over the company's use of prison labor, and the proximity of the facility to sources of drinking water.

We did not receive a response to an e-mail sent this morning to Hickman's asking for comment.

For people who settled pretty far from Phoenix -- the Hickman's facility is being built near 411th Avenue and Indian School Road -- having a huge chicken farm pop up near their homes isn't what they expected.

"It's just going to be devastating for our community," resident Linda Butler tells us.

Butler and her husband live on two acres of land about two miles away from the facility. They used to live in California, about two miles from an egg farm there, which had only about 100,000 hens.

"The smell invaded their home and the flies were unbearable," the lawsuit states. "The Butlers moved never expecting to deal with this type of situation again. They are concerned that if the Facility is allowed to operate, the problems will be magnified by 1,000 times."

Julie Park, the owner of Tonopah's El Dorado Hot Springs is also among the residents trying to stop construction of the facility.

"If the Facility goes into operation, the stink, flies and other vermin from the Facility will destroy Ms. Park's hot springs business," the lawsuit alleges. "It is impossible to run an outdoor hot springs featuring open air bathing within 3,000 from a Facility that will house millions of chickens in a confined area."

Hickman's plans to have the facility contain more than 2 million hens to start out, which could expand to house millions more.

This isn't the first action these residents have taken against Hickman's, either. Not only have they been publicly complaining about the plant, but they've also filed a previous lawsuit against Hickman's and the county. That lawsuit alleges Hickman's was given an agricultural exemption to build the facility, although the residents see it as an industrial plant, which would require more regulation. The lawsuit is still pending.

Of course, there's also grumbling about one of the Hickmans, Clint Hickman, being on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Although the plant is in his district, Hickman has publicly said that he hasn't been involved in this issue as a county supervisor.

In addition to having a coalition of Tonopah residents fighting the facility, there's also a national organization called the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) that helps people who fight factory farms being built in their communities.

"It's a difficult fight," SRAP director Danielle Diamond says. "It's so difficult to stop one [of these facilities] when they're coming in."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley