DELMARVA'S chicken litter is converted to fertilizer and shipped back to the Midwest grain farms that feed Delmarva's chickens.
It's a fitting solution to the pollution problem caused by the country's highest concentration of poultry farms, which generate over 800,000 tons of chicken house waste yearly.
Too much to be applied effectively on farms in the region, the manure and bedding pose a serious pollution runoff threat to the waters of the Chesapeake and coastal bays of the peninsula. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus in poultry waste feed explosive blooms of harmful algae.
The Delaware plant built by Perdue Farms and AgriRecycle hopes to process 10 percent of the region's poultry litter for export to farms in grain-producing states. The first shipment this week shows signs of economic success.
That still leaves a lot of chicken waste, and a big problem for chicken processors who face controversial new Maryland rules that force them to join with independent growers in finding sound ways to get rid of the litter.
Burning the waste to produce energy is the aim of at least three projects proposed for the Eastern Shore. It has been talked about for years, but the state Public Service Commission recently gave approval to the first such power plant in Hurlock.
Producing energy from biomass costs three or four times as much as from fossil fuels. Promoters seek tax incentives and subsidies to remove the excess chicken manure from the environment.
But large companies such as Perdue, Tyson and Allen see these projects as a way to meet Maryland's "co-permitting" waste disposal obligations of integrated poultry processors. (Delaware has agreements with five processors to achieve voluntary solutions.)
With national cleanup rules coming into effect next year, the $1.5 billion Delmarva poultry industry must change. Pellets of pasteurized manure from the Delaware fertilizer plant are the first signs of converting that unwanted waste to new benefits.