TURNER – Acting on a tip from the state, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration is investigating working conditions at egg farms operated by Maine Contract Farming and Quality Egg of New England.

William Coffin, OSHA’s regional director in Augusta, said a pair of federal agents visited the farm Monday on a referral from the state. Coffin would not say which agency made the referral, and he would not say what, if anything, his investigators found.

Coffin said concerns over the levels of ammonia in the air prompted the OSHA visit, but as of late Monday, he did not know what his investigators found. Even if he did, Coffin said he is prohibited by law from sharing any details of an open investigation with the public.

“We were on a referral from the state of Maine on the ammonia levels at the farm,” Coffin said.

Bob Leclerc, the safety compliance officer and spokesman at the farm, confirmed the OSHA visit but said the federal investigators did not find any health or safety issues.

“They read the paper,” Leclerc said. “They saw that some state workers got sick at the farm.” Leclerc said the OSHA inspectors were at the farm for about 40 minutes.

“They came up with nothing,” Leclerc said.

Calls seeking comment from Maine’s departments of agriculture and labor were not immediately returned Monday.

Four state animal cruelty investigators missed work after becoming ill following a raid on the farm earlier this month. Those investigators were following up on allegations and video footage taken by an undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals, a national animal rights group, which claims chickens at the farm are being treated inhumanely.

David Farmer, Gov. John Baldacci’s deputy chief of staff, told the Sun Journal last Friday that four state workers did miss some work time after the raid but suffered ” … no apparent lingering effects …”

Last week, state Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds, said the state investigators’ lungs were irritated from exposure to the ammonia in the air at the farm.

OSHA has no jurisdiction over state workers, but the federal agency does have jurisdiction over the farm’s managers and its workers.


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