Buckeye Egg has been “fowling” Ohio's environment for so long now that hardly anyone would be upset if the megafarm operation folds now that it has been assessed a $19.7 million judgment by a Licking County jury.
Time and again over the past two decades, the giant egg producer has been cited by state and federal authorities for polluting the air and water in Marion, Wyandot, Hardin, and Licking counties with the byproducts of its millions of laying hens. And time and again, the company has promised but failed to correct the problems, chiefly caused by chicken manure that not only pollutes area water but breeds flies and makes life unbearable for neighbors.
The jurors apparently decided such wholesale despoiling of the environment must be ended, underscoring their point by assessing actual damages of $4 million against the company, plus punitive damages of $15.7 million.
Buckeye Egg officials say the award could put the company out of business. The neighbors say it wouldn't be much of a loss. Despite claimed employment of some 600, most of the workers have been transients.
Among those who would like to see Buckeye Egg owner Anton Pohlmann “out of business and gone” is Bob Burbaugh, a Marion County farmer. “We've waited patiently enough for him to straighten up,” Mr. Burbaugh said. “He's well convinced us he's not going to do that, so the only alternative is for him to pack his bags and leave.”
Buckeye Egg hasn't been a good neighbor, corporate or otherwise, and certainly hasn't been a rightful steward of the land, as all farmers, big and small, must be. Promises to Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery to spend millions of dollars to correct the pollution problems haven't been fulfilled.
If the jury award is the proverbial two by four between the eyes that finally gains the attention of Buckeye Egg and prompts a remedy, so much the better. If the court action happens to push this contemptuous polluter out of business, no real harm will have been done and the state will be cleaner for it.