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Community hosts town hall meeting in Sharps Chapel to discuss mega-egg facility set to be built

At a cross-section in Sharps Chapel, a new Alpes Sanfer Pharmaceutical Egg Facility is expected to house around 72,000 chickens.

SHARPS CHAPEL, Tenn. — A Union County community hosted a town hall meeting on Tuesday to discuss a facility expected to house around 72,000 chickens soon.

Construction is underway on the new Alpes Sanfer Pharmaceutical Egg Facility in Sharps Chapel. These hens will lay pathogen-free eggs used for vaccine research. Tuesday's meeting focused on how the community could keep Norris Lake beautiful as the facility is built.

"Why here? That's the question that we've asked," said Todd Thiele, the president of the Norris Lake Protection Alliance. "We need to focus on the things we can control. The things we can control is how we behave around the lake, how we live on the lakeshore, how we pay attention to what's going in the lake."

The NLPA recently received a grant that would help pay for regularly testing the lake's water and making sure it's safe.

"We understand that they are building and there's nothing that we can do about that. But what we can do is take care of the lake and we have them to thank. We should have been taking care of testing the lake before they came," said Thiele. "From a moral and ethical standpoint, when I put my grandkids in the water, or my kids, or when I swim in the water — I want to know what's around their bodies and what goes in their mouths and up their noses is safe."

Construction on the facility started in November. The egg facility is located around a mile away from Norris Lake. The company is based out of Mexico, with Jose Luis Aviles as its president.

"We want to live there a long, long time and these are our neighbors," he said. "We will work within all the standards to avoid any contamination or hurt the environment, so we don't understand what's the opposition but we are open to explain what is happening." 

Thiele said she has not been able to communicate with the company to ask direct questions.

"We have no idea how it will impact, but it will definitely be changing the area," said Cheryl Bradford, who was at the town hall meeting. "Obviously, there are concerns when you have such a beautiful lake. That's why we live here."

Oversight agencies like the USDA would not intervene in the facility unless problems are reported. The community group said if there is a problem with the facility, they will spot it. One of their major concerns is how the facility would dispose of chicken feces.

The egg facility is expected to finish construction in August, and the chickens are expected to be moved in during September.

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