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Seagulls create health hazards at county landfill

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Seagulls may seem more annoying then harmful, but what they are doing at the New Hanover County :andfill is potentially dangerous to employees and customers.

Most of us see them flying around the beaches, but these scavengers are creating a big problem away from the coast.

"Seagulls are opportunistic feeders. They are going to go wherever the food is," New Hanover County Environmental Management Director Joe Suleyman said. "They are going to go after the food source that is the easiest to get at without expending that much energy or having to compete with other birds for that same kind of food. This is, as I mentioned earlier, an all you can eat buffet."

The New Hanover County Landfill has become a feast for seagulls and a hazard for employees.

"When they go to the bathroom, they create a big mess," landfill manager Sam Hawe said.

A big mess for employees, customers, and even businesses near the landfill. But most dangerously, the gulls' poop can cause deadly diseases such as E. Coli. That's why people in charge are looking for ways to scare off the birds.

"It shoots pyrotechnic cartridges," said Environmental Specialist Andrew Mulbey, as he described the gun used to scare off the birds. "This one is a screecher. It just goes out and leaves a trail of silver that the birds don’t like. It is also just really loud."

But these solutions are only short-term.

"See how quickly they are coming back," Mulbey said. "That used to take two hours they would leave. Then it became an hour and a half, and then it was just a couple minutes."

Workers say the birds became a growing problem after the county shut down the WASTEC incinerator. What used to come in as ash is now coming in as food and attracts more seagulls.

The county is asking for a federal permit that would allow them to kill some of the seagulls. They say this will be the only effective, long-term solution.

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