Fibrowatt's concept is to burn chicken droppings from North Carolina's large poultry industry to produce electricity. The company calls it "renewable energy from locally abundant agricultural byproducts," and touts the benefits to the environment. It says burning chicken waste cuts down on the dumping of fertilizer laden waste into the environment which can degrade local water sources, release greenhouse gases, and create offensive odors.
For Sampson County, which posted an 8.9 percent unemployment rate in January, the plant means 100 jobs.
"This new plant will bring much needed jobs and tax revenue to our county while providing a valuable service to poultry farmers in the area," said Jeff Wilson, chairman of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners, in a statement last April.
But the NAACP charges that burning chicken droppings will release toxins into the air including arsenic.
"Arsenic is one of the most toxic pollutants discovered, and has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate," said Rev. Dr. William Barber, President of the NC State Conference of the NAACP, in a letter to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners.
Barber says building the plants in rural areas would expose poor people and African Americans to unacceptable pollution levels.
But a spokesman for Fibrowatt told Eyewitness News Friday that it can't build its plants unless it can demonstrate that it's protective of the environment and public health. He said federal regulations offer multiple layers of protection for people living around this type of power plant.
In a news release issued this week, the company quoted one of its potential customers:
“We think there have been some misunderstandings about environmental issues and Fibrowatt,” said Lynn Daly, a grower for Goldsboro Milling. “Fibrowatt is providing an important service to poultry farmers that will help us manage our litter. Helping us manage poultry litter will help the environment.”
Fibrowatt said it's trying to work on an open dialogue with the NAACP and has offered members tours of its facilities in other states to try and show them how the technology works and how safe it is.