Board of Health hears from residents plagued by bird farm dust, smoke

  • Bernardston Country Estates President Paul Parda speaks before Board of Health regarding dust and smoke coming from the Fullflight Game Farm & Hunt Club, Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Dust billows up from the Fullflight Game Farm & Hunt Club in Bernardston, as viewed from the adjacent Bernardston Country Estates earlier this month. contributed photo

  • The view of Fullflight Game Farm & Hunt Club's pheasant pens from the adjacent Bernardston Country Estates. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Bernardston Country Estates President Paul Parda shows a dirty filter from a CPAP machine belonging to one of the mobile home park's residents while sitting at his home on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Parda believes dust from the adjacent bird farm is the main cause of the dirt. Bernardston Country Estates Vice President Ann Wagner is in the background. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Bernardston Country Estates, a mobile home community located at 75 South St. in Bernardston. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Friday, October 20, 2017

BERNARDSTON — Stepping onto his back porch Thursday morning, Bernardston Country Estates President Paul Parda ran his index finger along his glass top table and grimaced. The deck’s wooden planks, table and plastic chairs were all veiled in a thin layer of dust.

The view from Parda’s porch was the adjacent pheasant pens owned by the Fullflight Game Farm & Hunt Club, which residents at Bernardston Country Estates say is the source of the dust. Farther down the hill, smoke rose from an outdoor wood burner.

The smoke and dust were two sources of complaints for 29 residents of the mobile home community, including Parda, who attended Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting. As many of the elderly residents have breathing or lung conditions, multiple residents voiced their concerns about health risks.

“We don’t want to take away his right to farm,” Parda said at his home Thursday morning. “We just want to be able to breathe clean air.”

Numerous residents provided testimony about their quality of life. However, because their complaint was aired under citizens’ concerns and was not an official agenda item, the Board of Health did not come to a decision regarding the farm.

The farm, which is owned by Edwin Gray, raises a variety of pheasants and partridges. Parda told the board that in the early evening hours, the birds take “dust baths,” raising the dust about 30 to 40 feet in the air and toward the 39 mobile homes.

“It’s a nuisance, number one, and it’s creating air pollution,” Parda said.

Many residents attested to staying inside hoping to escape the dust and smoke, but unsuccessfully so.

“We have to live inside all summer,” resident Candis Johnson said. “But let me tell you, that dust gets inside. It’s not a healthy situation.”

“We used to have people walking in the park all the time,” added resident Stanley Parda. “Now you’re locked up in your house like a prisoner … My floors are dirty, my car is dirty. It’s frustrating.”

A historic problem

However, Wednesday was not the first time the Board of Health heard from Bernardston Country Estates residents. In 2005, residents met with Gray, the Board of Health and Selectboard after having unsuccessfully pressed their complaints with the state Department of Public Health, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Food and Agriculture, Greenfield Recorder archives indicate. Each agency had sent inspectors to review the situation and none of the completed inspections yielded problems.

The Selectboard-Board of Health joint meeting ended with mobile home residents agreeing to mediation with Gray, and Gray considering the suggestion.

“I don’t feel as if Fullflight Game Farm is doing anything it shouldn’t be doing,” Gray was quoted as saying at the 2005 meeting. Phone calls to Gray were not returned by press time.

Once in 2005 and once in 2013, residents had dirt samples tested by Howard Laboratories of Hatfield for the presence of fecal coliform bacteria and E. coli. The results indicate both tests detected the bacteria, and although there was too much bacteria to count in the 2005 sample, the 2013 sample found 1,730 colonies in a 100 milliliter sample.

As for the smoke, Board of Health Clerk Jennifer Clark said that’s something the board has discussed more recently. She said previous health agents inspected the outdoor wood boiler and found it to be in compliance with town bylaws.

“(Smoke) is a hard thing to regulate,” Clark said.

What now?

Clark said an agenda item about the farm might be included on the board’s Nov. 1 meeting agenda. For now, the mobile home residents were asked to submit written complaint forms.

Paul Parda said he wants to see action from town officials.

“We feel basically like our hands are tied, like we’re beating our heads against the wall and not getting anywhere,” he said.

Bernardston Country Estates Vice President Ann Wagner said she hopes “to find a conclusion that respects everyone,” proposing Gray perhaps invest in an irrigation system to keep the dust down.

“We want to find a solution that makes everybody happy,” she said. “There is no reason why everybody can’t co-exist peacefully.”