Buffalo River 


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  • 18 Sep 2018 7:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Shut down hog farm

    I would like to express my strong opposition to continued operation of the C&H CAFO adjacent to Big Creek. Several geologists and experts agree that nutrients from the hog waste of this operation will reach our beautiful Buffalo River through the karst geology of this region that allows drainage to pass through its porous makeup.

    We are blessed to live in a beautiful state with so many God-made wonders to behold. It is incumbent on our citizens to protect and preserve these wonders. All who love and enjoy this beautiful state please join me in asking the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to deny C&H's request for renewal of their permit to continue operation. Don't forget to let our governor know how you feel. Write letters to the editor, or mail letters to the Department of Environmental Quality at 5301 Lakeshore Drive, North Little Rock, 72118.



  • 18 Sep 2018 7:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    State notice on Arkansas hog farm issued

    Agency draft of permit denial opens public comment period

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: September 18, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

    Arkansas environmental regulators issued Monday their public notice of a draft decision to deny a new operating permit to a large hog farm in the Buffalo River's watershed.

    The draft notice -- issued after a judge determined a final decision on C&H Hog Farms had been issued prematurely -- opens a public comment period on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's decision that will end at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17. A public hearing will be held at department headquarters at 5 p.m. Oct. 9. 

    The department accepted public comments in 2017 on its draft decision to grant C&H the permit and took several months to go through more than 19,000 comments, respond to them and ultimately issue the final decision that denied it. A judge and the department's appellate body ruled later that the department needed to issue a draft decision to deny the permit.

    C&H is operating under an expired Regulation 6 general permit. That regulatory program itself also expired, which prompted the Newton County facility to apply for a Regulation 5 individual permit, which does not expire and is tailored to the facility's operation.

    In its statement of basis denying the permit, the Department of Environmental Quality determined that the hog farm's location on rocky, permeable karst terrain necessitated a geologic investigation to determine groundwater flow on the property and manure pond liner construction quality assurance, among other things.

    John Bailey, director of environmental and regulatory affairs at the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said other counties have more karst than Newton County, including heavily populated Washington County.

    "Are they not allowed to have permits now because of karst?" Bailey said.

    In January, the department's statement of basis totaled three pages. The statement issued Monday was three times as long, expanding on the department's initial argument and addressing new information on surrounding water quality.

    C&H Hog Farms sits on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where it meets the Buffalo River. It is permitted to house 6,503 hogs.

    The department discussed its recent findings that Big Creek and the Buffalo River are both impaired in parts for pathogens or dissolved oxygen. The pathogen tested is E. coli. C&H may be contributing to that impairment, the department wrote in the statement of basis.

    The Big Creek Research and Extension Team, formed in 2013 to assess Big Creek and C&H, has found elevated nitrate near the facility, the department wrote. That includes statistically significant increases of nitrate in the ephemeral stream and the house well since 2014. An ephemeral stream is a stream that flows only during and a little after rainfall.

    Bailey said Monday that he had not thoroughly studied issues on the ephemeral stream but said that the house well had previously been measured from a cistern instead. That cistern, which received water pumped from the well, also picked up wash from other farm facilities that led to high nitrates, Bailey said. Measurements from the actual well in recent months have not showed elevated nitrate levels, he said.

    Bailey also has argued that most of the high-E. coli tests came from upstream of Big Creek. Opponents of C&H have contended, as well, that groundwater can travel in under karst terrain, and contaminated water can originate farther down a stream than where it may later be found.

    Opponents of C&H have said they plan to resubmit their comments and more.

    "There is a possibility they could change that decision as they have before," attorney Richard Mays said. "Very few people anticipated that they would deny the granting of the permit as they did back in January of this year."

    Mays has represented the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club as intervenors in C&H's appeal of its permit denial.

    Both dockets have closed at the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, which denied one and dismissed the other as moot when they ordered the permit denial be a draft decision.

    C&H filed notices of appeal in its two cases in Newton County Circuit Court earlier this month. On Sept. 7, the day the notice was filed in the Regulation 5 case, C&H requested that the judge grant a stay of the commission's order pending appeal. It was unclear Monday whether documents filed with the notice of appeal intended to constitute the actual appeal.

    Bailey said he was surprised the department went ahead with its draft permit denial without waiting for a judge to decide on the stay. If the stay were granted, he said, what would that mean for any public comments submitted?

    A department spokesman said Monday that officials were aware of the appeal but noted that the department was not a party to it.

    Mays said his groups would support the department's draft denial of the permit. Comments from the alliance referred to required guidance documents later used by the department to argue in part what the alliance had -- that the permit application was insufficient in its study of its location and providing an emergency action plan.

    "I know there's going to be a major effort on the part of C&H and others to overturn it," Mays said. "Everything that happens in it is going to be highly controversial."

    Metro on 09/18/2018

  • 17 Sep 2018 9:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Reputation is sullied

    The hog farm at Mount Judea has not only damaged the Buffalo River, it has injured the reputation of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. I can't think of another state agency held in such low regard.

    To the folks who work at the department, I ask this question: Do you think the Farm Bureau cares?


    Fort Smith

  • 17 Sep 2018 9:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tracking science

    Contamination source obvious

    By David Peterson Special to the Democrat-Gazette

    Posted: September 17, 2018 at 2:44 a.m.

    Jack Boles, president of the Newton County Farm Bureau, has questioned a column by Mike Masterson which quotes from the Big Creek Research and Extension Team's recent report of monitoring of C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed.

    Since the Arkansas Farm Bureau is funding C&H's legal fight to keep its operation alive, one can hardly expect objectivity from Mr. Boles. But in this case, Mr. Boles is proving a larger point.

    It is undisputed that excess nutrients in the Buffalo River create algae blooms, which in turn cause water quality degradation. Farming activities (hogs, chicken and cattle), the attendant conversion of forest to pasture, and the resulting animal wastes are the primary cause of the decline in water quality in the Buffalo River. Mr. Boles and his organization appear to be just fine with this.

    But let's look more closely at the point Mr. Boles tries to make. He claims that the Big Creek team's monitoring Field 5a is not receiving wastes from C&H and thus Mr. Masterson's statement that C&H's waste is leaving Field 5a is "cherry-picking" the facts.

    What Mr. Boles fails to inform your readers is that the Field 5a catchment area receives agriculture runoff from a much larger area. In fact, it drains an adjoining field and portions of an adjoining farm operation. The Big Creek report Mr. Masterson references states that in 2015, losses in surface runoff from Field 5a were 4.46 pounds of phosphorus and 6.97 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Although we know that these figures are overstated as the Big Creek team underestimates the acreage that is contributing to Field 5a, this plainly shows that agricultural activities along Big Creek contribute nutrients to the adjacent Big Creek and the Buffalo River.

    Tellingly, Mr. Boles fails to challenge Mr. Masterson's article noting the team's results from Field 12, which has received over a quarter-million gallons of waste from C&H since 2014. The Big Creek team reports that in 2015, that field lost 45.9 percent of the phosphorus applied and 24.8 percent of nitrogen applied.

    Mr. Boles probably doesn't mention this field because these results clearly show swine waste from C&H entering Big Creek and the Buffalo River.

    C&H continues, year after year, to apply phosphorus far in excess of its rotational grazing needs. The 2017 annual report by C&H shows soil concentrations of phosphorus above optimal for all spread fields. For instance, Field 1 had 190 pounds of phosphate per acre in the soil, plenty for the typical one cow per acre raised in Newton County (23 pounds phosphate/cow). But C&H applied 232 pounds/acre, 10 times the need. Where does the excess go if not ultimately into the creeks?

    In the short 2½-mile stretch of Big Creek adjacent to C&H, the mean nitrate level and flow-weighted mean phosphorus level increases by about 125 percent, according to data from the Big Creek team and U.S. Geological Survey. Maybe it's the school at Mount Judea or the several hundred people in White Township creating the mess, not the million pound hog farm.

    No real, rational farmer buys and applies excess fertilizer unless his business is nutrient-dumping--socializing business expenses by making the public pay for the burden of waste disposal in the waterways. And now Big Creek and the Buffalo River are declared impaired by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

    So while Mr. Boles attempts to defend C&H by blaming a neighboring farm for the pollution coming from the area designated as Field 5a, he will have a more difficult time blaming the cause of Big Creek's impairment on something other than agriculture sources, of which C&H is by far the largest in the entire Buffalo River watershed.

    Manure can be a useful agricultural byproduct, but its application doesn't have to be a menace to our waterways. The Farm Bureau can do better by encouraging farmers to stop phosphorus dumping and by better utilization of nitrogen.


    Dr. David Peterson is a

  • 16 Sep 2018 9:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Case for prosecution

    In his presentation for the defense, retired Cajun lawyer Edward Chevallier has said that the hog farm waste is but a drop in the river compared to the rest of the animals that live in the drainage area. I wish to present a set of facts that will show his data for the defense may be true but skewed.

    First a few facts, sir. The Buffalo River drainage has an area of over 350,000 acres. C&H Hog Farms occupies only 23 of these acres, or roughly 0.007 percent of the drainage area.

    On these few acres sit approximately 6,500 hogs filling two ponds with excrement for later distribution over fields, some in the same drainage area. But those two ponds, full most days, are the waste equivalent of a city of 15,000 humans.

    Imagine a town of 15,000 people sitting just 6 miles off the river without a sewage treatment plant. Did you know that there are about 15,000 people total in Newton and Searcy counties combined? The population of both counties crammed onto 23 acres. You don't see a problem yet?

    I wish to present to the jury the fact that all this concentrated doo-doo is sitting on rock that is full of holes, passages, caves and pristine underground water. A formation called karst. One good leak of these ponds and the contents head to more places than just down Big Creek. Underground water would also be affected. Hogs also carry pathogens that humans react to as well.

    So now you know why we are not concerned with millions of critters doing what they do in the woods harming the river. We are worried about this load of concentrated excrement hanging over the playground for millions of people.

    As far as buying up the farm and shutting it down? They won't sell. The prosecution will never rest, your honor.


    Little Rock

  • 16 Sep 2018 9:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MIKE MASTERSON: More at risk

    Toxins in our river

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: September 16, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

    Carol Bitting has long been a staunch champion for our Buffalo National River, identified last year by readers of USA Today as the state's greatest attraction.

    She is one of many who have dedicated themselves to protecting the country's first national river that now is endangered and disease-impaired. Her concerns echo tens of thousands of others across our state.

    Bitting, along with equally devoted geoscientist and emeritus professor John Van Brahana, recently forwarded two cautionary August news releases from our state Department of Health that should have all of us upset.

    She wrote: "If you haven't seen these letters you will find them of interest and the readers should know that algae waters should be avoided for contact and consuming. I have known several people that have had reactions to being in contact with the waters in the Buffalo this summer. Three people on one trip had reactions and of those, all had skin rashes and fever and two developed gastrointestinal issues."

    Contamination from Recreational Water Illness (RWI) has become a deadly serious matter within this sacred river, exactly as hydrologists and geoscientists (as opposed to any alleged "raving environmentalists") have been warning for five years. These illnesses are caused when bacteria in contaminated water find a home inside people and other animals.

    Health Department officials urged anyone in the Buffalo or its tributary Big Creek not to swallow water or swim in algae blooms (triggered by animal fertilizer runoff). They also warned against entering water with bad smells, discoloration, foam, scum or algae mats (good luck avoiding those on our lower Buffalo today) or signs of dead fish or marine life.

    "Water quality can change quickly," the officials wrote. "In general, there is a higher risk of getting sick after a rainfall event or in cloudy water," warning that not all contaminants can be see by the naked eye.

    "Not all algae are harmful," they continued, "but some algae produce toxins that can make people and animals sick. It is not possible to tell if algae are producing toxins just by looking at the water. The size of the bloom is not related to the amount of toxins that could be present. Children and pets are at the greatest risk from swimming or drinking water when algae are present."

    They also emphasized people or animals should never consume algae-infested water, even if it's been filtered, as personal filter equipment and treatment options don't eliminate the risks. It's also a bad idea to cook using this water. Symptoms include throwing up and diarrhea. Anyone who believes they have an RWI should contact the Department of Health Communicable Disease Nurses at (501) 537-8969.

    As for the well-being of dogs, they earned their very own press release addressed to veterinarians. And theirs was focused squarely on the national river.

    "Harmful algal blooms ... from the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) may be intermittently present in parts of the Buffalo River National Park, specifically the lower river region," it says. These algae can produce toxins that affect people and animals that swim in and drink from these waters. There are several sections of the river where people recreate with their dogs.

    Though the Health Department has received only a few reports of human illnesses possibly associated with the blooms, officials also felt it wise to inform veterinarians of the current situation and provide additional resources should they encounter symptoms, especially in dogs.

    Indications of cyanobacterial toxin poisoning depend on the type of toxin (hepatotoxin, neurotoxin, or dermatoxin), its concentration, the amount consumed, the size of the animal and the exposure route, according to the Health Department. Left untreated, cyanobacterial toxin poisoning can be fatal in animals. Prompt veterinary care is critical for pets showing hepatic or neurologic symptoms, and there are no antidotes to these toxins.

    Ingesting large amounts of such toxins can result in serious illness and the need for emergency care. Common signs of hepatotoxin poisoning include throwing up, diarrhea, anorexia, jaundice, abdominal tenderness, and dark urine, and death from liver failure can occur within days.

    Neurotoxins, the release said, cause excessive drooling, disorientation, seizures, and respiratory failure, and can lead to death within minutes to hours after exposure from respiratory paralysis. Cyanobacteria may also produce dermatoxins which result in rash, hives, or an allergic reaction.

    These symptoms sure sound identical to health problems suffered by the Buffalo River enthusiasts Bitting mentioned at the top of this column.

    But hey, don't worry, be happy, fellow Arkansans. After all, our politically appointed Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee and the tax-funded Big Creek Research and Extension Team are diligently at work (watching this unfold) to ensure purity on our behalf.

    Meanwhile, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) doesn't care to pin down the source of this ever-deepening threat to the health of our Buffalo because, well, then they'd have to deal with it.

    Quite a dangerous and wholly unnecessary shameful mess we've allowed to be foisted upon Arkansans and our precious jewel of a river, don't you think?


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

  • 15 Sep 2018 11:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Protecting Buffalo River won’t harm small farms

    Small farms and the Buffalo River have coexisted for hundreds of years without excessive pollution of the first national river in America. The concentrated animal feeding operation issue is not “river vs. farmers” regardless of what politicians say.

    Truthfully, these small farms exist today because of efforts in the 1960s to save the Buffalo River and stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from flooding the entire river valley to build a dam. Google the history. It’s a shining moment for Arkansans and Friends of the Buffalo.

    The Buffalo National River is now impaired. What changed? A feeding operation lately located in the watershed. The timeline of that swine factory and the pollutants in the Buffalo National River track simultaneously. Arkansas is the steward of this national treasure. The only option for Arkansans is to do whatever it takes to protect these waters. The true small farmers on the Buffalo River will continue to co-exist from mutually beneficial environmental practices. The tourists will respect any access limitations that may be necessary for future usage protections. Good neighbor policies, as advocated by the Farm Bureau, means doing what’s right for everybody, not just for a single misplaced corporate feeding operation.

    Decisions in the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality should be driven by impartial factual evidence and science produced by professionals in their respective fields for the benefit of all Arkansans, not by political appointments for selected corporate industries. My objections to C&H Farms remain the same: (1) Lack of a written emergency environmental disaster plan; (2) negative health impact on residents and tourists; (3) economic disaster to tourism businesses; (4) Department of Environmental Quality policy/procedure enforcement failure; and (5) inhumane treatment of large animals.

    Close the combined animal feeding operation.



  • 14 Sep 2018 10:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansans should take action for the Buffalo

    Bill Underwood’s Sept. 5 letter to the editor focused meaningfully on the disastrous polluting hog farming near our national treasure, the Buffalo River. How can we, the concerned, attempt to make a difference?

    Two thoughts: We Arkansas residents could write the Department of Environmental Quality. Or write Cargill directly. Cargill is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn.

    I, a senior senior, do not have a computer so I cannot generate specific addresses. But hopefully the readers get the idea — do something. Decades ago, an individual, Dr. Compton, stopped the building of a dam on the Buffalo. What can WE do?



  • 14 Sep 2018 10:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Not part of problem

    Protecting the water, air and wild places that we all need is going to require well-informed, scientifically sound discussion. Comparing two million gallons of factory-produced hog manure to wild deer poop is not well-informed or scientifically sound.

    The hog manure is the residue left over from feeding thousands of tons of imported nutrients. Nutrients trucked into the Ozarks as concentrated swine feed, eaten by the hogs and then spread onto fields as manure. All the polluting nutrients in the hog manure are new to the ecosystem, brought in from somewhere else. All the deer poop, squirrel poop, etc., is just the result of wildlife eating the acorns, roots and grass that are already present in the Ozark ecosystem.

    The pollution of the Buffalo River is the result of nutrients imported from outside the Ozarks. Wild animals are not importing anything. Wildlife is not part of the pollution problem.



  • 11 Sep 2018 11:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Must protect the river

    I am a supporter and admirer of the Buffalo River. I don't want to see our beautiful river that has been tirelessly protected to be polluted by anyone. I commend the writer John Kimbrow referred to and think his criticism of the subject choice to be unwarranted.

    I for one believe that the effort to protect our river must be ongoing and never-ending. There will always be those, in this state and Washington, D.C., who will want to exploit this gift God has given us to cherish and protect. The hog farm is a present problem. Until that problem is addressed and eliminated, the information and protection must continue.

    The gift of this river must not be underappreciated. When we stop fighting we will lose our precious river. I don't want future generations reading about the Buffalo in Arkansas history books. I want them to experience and enjoy this gift, as I have.



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