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Buckeye Egg faces suit by 62 neighbors in 3 counties

UPPER SANDUSKY, Ohio - The state's largest egg producer should pay for ruining the quality of life for rural residents living near the company's farms in three northwest Ohio counties, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday.

Buckeye Egg Farm, L.P,. and its owner, Anton Pohlmann, were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Wyandot County Common Pleas Court by 62 residents in Wyandot, Marion, and Hardin counties.

The lawsuit claims that Buckeye Egg has “negligently or recklessly'' managed the storage and spreading of manure,'' leading to a severe fly problem that has forced residents indoors during the spring and the summer.

The fly problem and the odor from the manure has created a health hazard for residents living near the company's egg farms and pullet operations, the plaintiffs claim.

The lawsuit also contends that Buckeye Egg has “recklessly disposed of chicken carcasses, manure,'' and water used to wash and clean eggs into fields and area waterways, creating a major pollution problem.

The lawsuit is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

“The message of the lawsuit is that Buckeye Egg needs to be a good neighbor,'' said Reg Jackson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “The people had a quiet enjoyment of their property before Buckeye Egg moved into their community. Now they have flies, odor, chicken carcasses in their fields. They also have egg-wash water being discharged into their streams. They want that to stop. These are people who have been very patient''

A telephone call to Buckeye Egg was not returned yesterday.

In 1995 Buckeye Egg opened an egg farm with more than 2.5 million hens near the Hardin County village of Mount Victory. Two years later the company began operating a farm with more than 3 million hens close to the Wyandot County village of Marseilles. Buckeye Egg also has a pullet farm in Marion County's Goshen Township.

Residents in those communities have complained for years about Buckeye Egg.

The company has been cited and fined more than $1 million by the state over the last few years for polluting rivers and streams. The state has been trying to close Buckeye Egg facilities because of the problems. The company also has an egg farm with 4.6-million hens near Croton in Licking County.

Yesterday's lawsuit is similar to one filed last year by residents living near the Croton egg farm.

A few months ago, a jury awarded those residents about $19.7 million in damages. The amount covers negligence by Buckeye Egg and the nuisance of odors and fly infestations the neighbors say were caused by the company and Mr. Pohlmann.

Mr. Pohlmann had said such a verdict could bankrupt the company.

Two months ago, Mr. Pohlmann said he would look for a buyer for the megafarm. At the time, he turned the company's operations over to Compliance Consulting Associates LLC of Middletown.

David Armentrout, the company's managing member, has said the contract to run Buckeye Egg goes through December, 2003, while owner Mr. Pohlmann looks for a buyer.

Buckeye Egg is the state's largest egg producer and produces 4 percent of the nation's eggs, 2.6 billion last year. It has 125 barns and more than 12 million hens in Ohio.

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