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  • 16 Oct 2017 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    arkansasonline


    Hearings wrap up on Buffalo River watershed plan

    By Emily Walkenhorst 


    JASPER — Arkansas officials and a contractor held their final meeting last week asking stakeholders for input on how they should write a plan to conserve the area surrounding the state’s most visited river.

    The contractor, Little Rock-based FTN Associates, will compile about a year’s worth of research and stakeholder input and issue a draft Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan within the next month, said Kent Thornton, a systems ecologist for FTN who has led four public meetings on the plan.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan would identify ways in which landowners can voluntarily improve the environment surrounding the Buffalo. It would focus on actions that landowners not currently subject to regulatory oversight could take. The plan would not be regulatory, but it could be used by landowners to help get funding from a dwindling pot of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants.

    The plan itself is funded with EPA grant money, announced last fall by Gov. Asa Hutchinson as a part of a push to discuss conservation of the Buffalo River after years of outcry over the state’s permitting of the first large industrial hog farm in the river’s watershed.

    The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission hired FTN to produce the plan, which would be one of 14 the commission has for rivers across the state.

    While some people have expressed interest in doing more for the Buffalo, some have said they think a watershed management plan would be a good start.

    About 25 people attended the final stakeholder meeting Thursday, voicing their concerns about what can be addressed in the Buffalo River plan and how conservation programs that might be recommended in it would be funded.

    One person asked if the plan could recommend that the state give $1 million annually toward conservation efforts that would then be matched using other funding sources.

    Natural Resources Commission Deputy Director Ryan Benefield said the commission would not lobby the governor and that local funding would be key to implementing any conservation efforts in the area.

    “We’re not going to get this done through state funding alone,” he said.

    The EPA funding that the commission receives for such projects has decreased, and Benefield noted that there are 13 other watershed management plans calling for millions of dollars in conservation projects across Arkansas.

    One attendee asked who advocates for the Buffalo.

    “We’re hoping that y’all do,” Benefield said to some laughter in the Carroll Electric Community Room in Jasper.

    He mentioned that local groups fund a large part of projects in the Illinois River watershed in Northwest Arkansas, then ask the commission for additional money, which it often gives.

    “These projects are not necessarily done by government,” he said.

    “It’s really local groups that come together that decide they want to do a project … and then we assist them.”

    So far, the watershed management plan process has identified several conservation practices and their expected impact on each of six critical subwatersheds. Those subwatersheds refer to the areas around six Buffalo tributaries within the Buffalo’s watershed.

    They were selected as priorities in the plan based on their conditions using data through the end of 2015.

    Those subwatersheds are Flatrock, Tomahawk, Calf, Bear, Brush and lower Big creeks.

    Middle Big Creek, which many opponents of C&H Hog Farms wanted to be a subwatershed, did not finish in the top six in FTN’s analysis, although Buffalo River Watershed Alliance President Gordon Watkins said he thinks it might have if data from 2016 and 2017 collected by state scientists had been included. Those data, he said, show higher nitrate and lower dissolved oxygen levels.

    According to FTN Associates, the levels of nitrates and other substances has increased in those six Buffalo tributaries over the years because of wastewater treatment plants and nearby pastures.

    Closing the difference between the 2005-15 median levels and the 1985-94 median levels — considered the target levels — would require reductions of 32 percent to 70 percent in the six creeks.

    Target E. coli levels would require reductions of 44 percent to 76 percent for four of the creeks.

    FTN has identified possible reductions in nitrogen, coliform bacteria, sediment and phosphorus through prescribed animal grazing, stream buffers, pasture planting and management, and excluding animals from streams.

    The estimated cost of those practices in just the Calf Creek watershed? About $3.1 million.

    FTN also recommends greater planning; road maintenance; revegetation; prescribed burns; trail and streamside management; identifying failing wastewater treatment plants; continued monitoring of pollutants and trash; and studies of dissolved oxygen, sources of pollutants and other things. Some research has already shown that pollution in Mill Creek is coming from the Crooked Creek watershed, in addition to the Buffalo River watershed, Thornton said.

    At the meeting, White River Waterkeeper Executive Director Jessie Green asked that FTN recommend robust data collection and education of the watershed’s private well owners about what could be in their water.

    She also would like to see greater oversight of older septic tanks not subject to more recent requirements.

    “We think there’s a lot of potential for septic tank failure in the watershed,” she said.

    For Watkins, factoring wastewater treatment plants and hog farms into the plan would be ideal.

    But that’s not possible, he said, because those facilities are already regulated through the permits they have from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

    That’s frustrating to him because of how much a large hog farm or wastewater treatment plants for two cities — Jasper and Marshall — can affect the Buffalo and its tributaries.

    “I think it’s kind of a shiny object,” he said of the watershed management plan.

    Still, he attended the planning meetings and thinks the plan will be beneficial.

    “I think it’ll be a good foundational document,” he said.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan will be open for stakeholder comment — which means anyone can comment — for about 30 days, Thornton said. Then, FTN will review and respond to the comments before finalizing the document.

    For it to be an official watershed management plan, the EPA must approve of it, he said.

    Print Headline: Hearings wrap up on Buffalo River watershed plan



  • 15 Oct 2017 7:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    No hogs in watershed


    Governor Hutchinson, do the right thing. Put a stop to commercial hog farming in the Buffalo River watershed before it's too late. This can be your legacy. The governor who saved the Buffalo again, or the governor who turned a blind eye and allowed the pollution of the nation's first national river.


    HANK VAN ROSSUM

    Bigelow

  • 14 Oct 2017 5:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MASTERSON ONLINE: Overlooking the obvious

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: October 14, 2017 at 2:17 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    Pretend your job as a volunteer watchdog (assigned by the governor) is to identify vehicles that continuously spew clouds of dangerous exhaust along the interstate. The state is particularly aware of one poison-emitting truck that drives the interstate day and night. Ironically, the state has officially sanctioned and licensed this enormous vehicle.


    But there’s a problem when it comes to fulfilling your responsibility.

    You’re allowed to report on other vehicle discharges with the exception of this truck because the state supposedly is officially monitoring its foul emissions.


    While not a perfect comparison, it’s close to the situation created last year by Gov. Asa Hutchinson after the widespread public outcry arose over our state permitting a hog factory into the precious Buffalo National River watershed along Big Creek at Mount Judea. Big Creek runs alongside the factory’s waste spray fields then six miles later directly into the Buffalo.


    Rather than close the factory out of valid concerns for preserving the Buffalo’s water quality, the governor in 2016 chose to create a volunteer committee with a pacifying title: Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee (I prefer Reaction Committee).


    This group, led by the Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) that inexplicably allowed the hog factory into the watershed to begin with, and staffed by the directors of four other state agencies, reportedly was formed to address water-quality concerns with a management plan throughout the watershed which ensures the Buffalo remains safe. Accordingly, the committee is to “establish measurable objectives, set achievable action items, establish durable partnerships, share agency resources, and inform policymakers and the general public of relevant progress.”


    Now there’s a mouthful. How about something simpler: “Protect our sacred Buffalo River at all costs.”


    The group’s first-year priorities include developing a stakeholder forum, initiating development of a watershed management plan, identifying early actions to “jump start” improvements, and prioritizing future research needs.


    This Beautiful Buffalo [re]action group this week issued initial findings that include recommendations for monitoring six tributary subwatersheds, except for the middle part of Big Creek, the tributary most obviously threatened. The committee says it isn’t authorized to include that part of Big Creek as a point-source of hog-waste pollution since that kind of oversight falls under the agency that wrongheadedly approved this factory’s location.


    Hmm. I see. But not really, if you are objectively seeking truth.


    It is, however, much more governmentally convenient with politically influential groups, such as the Farm Bureau and Pork Producers, that the committee only deals with six other watershed streams. Unlike Big Creek, they don’t flow alongside the spray fields of a primary tributary to the Buffalo, which attracts million of visitors (and even more of their dollars) to the impoverished Ozarks.


    I’m not alone in questioning the committee process and its decision. Many Arkansas citizens and stakeholders like the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the Sierra Club, the Ozark Society and the Canoe Club, also find it unacceptable to eliminate Big Creek from the committee’s scrutiny if it is to do a thorough job.


    Gordon Watkins, who leads the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said: “We discussed how hard to push for inclusion of Big Creek and, after lengthy discussions with other groups, we concluded it was a futile exercise. But just because it’s not on the priority list doesn’t mean we and others won’t continue to point out impairments of Big Creek. We also will use the committee’s Buffalo Watershed Management Plan to emphasize fragility of the national river and shine light on Big Creek’s impact.

    “While the committee is focusing on six watershed streams, it doesn’t exclude all other tributaries from consideration. It just means Big Creek likely will receive less attention and funding from agencies. That’s no big surprise.”


    Why does all this Beautiful Buffalo Action stuff feel to me like some political misdirection game designed to pacify a lot of angry voters and taxpayers who dearly love our Buffalo?


    The Sierra Club put it this way: “We understand clearly that regulated, point-source activities are, by statute, not within the scope of this plan. And we know six sub-watersheds were chosen as focus for initial management practices and activities. And that middle Big Creek, where the C&H Hog Farm is, was not one of the chosen.

    “The plan states this is because … C&H is a regulated, confined animal feeding operation, a point-source. However, we feel strongly that middle Big Creek … should be included in the initial management plan and all non-point-source activities be monitored and have management practices applied.


    “We’re certain every sub-watershed within the Buffalo River system has both point-source and non-point-source activities, and the plan’s rationale for de-selecting middle Big Creek is therefore not a valid criterion. It is an excuse!”


    Bob Allen with the Canoe Club says: “A private firm, FTN Associates, was hired to do an assessment and develop a ‘Voluntary Watershed-Based Management Plan for the Buffalo River Watershed.’ Their assessment says the place to begin is a set of six subwatersheds … [not including] Big Creek, the tributary that drains the hog factory! The sole purpose of this committee was created because of the factory on Big Creek, but they chose not to include it in their management plan.”


    Allen summarized: “We have an issue with the Buffalo National River and contamination from hog urine and feces. However, it’s way too hot politically, so we’ll go look somewhere else and pretend we are addressing the issue at hand.”

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

  • 13 Oct 2017 10:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Failing the state

    This is environmental quality?

    By GLEN HOOKS SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

    Posted: October 13, 2017 at 2:38 a.m.


    NWAOnline



    Night is day. Up is down. War is peace. And the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is using our tax dollars to fight against cleaner air for our state.

    For more than a decade, the Arkansas Sierra Club has been pushing our state to follow the law and clean up power-plant emissions that foul our parks and wilderness areas. The Regional Haze Rule, passed in 1999, requires states to reduce visible air pollution, otherwise known as haze, and improve visibility in places like the Upper Buffalo and Caney Creek wilderness areas.


    In 2011, several years after the deadline, the state Department of Environmental Quality submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a haze-reduction plan that was partially approved and partially disapproved, and sent back for more work. Even with the opportunity to continue drafting its plan, the department made an affirmative decision to not do so--that decision, by law, required the EPA to write a federal plan for Arkansas. When EPA failed to meet its deadline for writing its plan for Arkansas, the Sierra Club successfully sued in federal court to force EPA to do its duty.


    The result of this suit? EPA announced a draft plan, held a public hearing, received hundreds of comments from Arkansas citizens on the plan, and issued a final plan in 2016. The plan promised significant reductions in air pollution from the two largest sources of air pollution in Arkansas, Entergy's White Bluff and Independence power plants. These plants are among the largest in the entire country that lack modern technology to reduce smog and other harmful pollutants.


    Under the plan, these old, dirty coal-burning power plants would install modern pollution controls no later than 2021. By dramatically reducing air pollution that harms people's health, the plan would prevent more than 137 premature deaths, 4,000 asthma attacks, and 19,000 lost work and school days every year, saving more than $1.36 billion annually in public health costs and lost productivity.


    Sounds like a good plan, right? Cleaner air, better public health, more visibility in our Arkansas parks, and adding pollution controls to aging power plants that can't compete in today's energy market. Who wouldn't want that?


    Answer: The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the arm of our state government that, according to its website, is "charged with preventing, controlling, and abating pollution that could harm Arkansas' valuable natural resources."


    The Department of Environmental Quality has joined forces with Entergy in an effort to block the haze-reduction plan in federal court. Let that sink in for a moment. We have the Natural State's environmental protection team spending Arkansas tax dollars to team up with a polluting utility to fight against an effort to clean up the Natural State. Not only are they seeking to overturn the haze-reduction plan in court, the agency is seeking to replace the plan with a much weaker state plan of its own.


    Even in a time when a new outrage is around every corner, this is absolutely maddening. The haze-reduction plan is literally a decade overdue because of delay after delay, resulting in a decade of additional and unnecessary pollution for Arkansans. Now, after the plan is complete, the Department of Environmental Quality wants to write a new, weaker plan that will result in still more delay--and in weaker haze reductions.


    Arkansans deserve much, much better than an Environmental Quality department that is unconcerned with reducing pollution. It is beyond outrageous that Arkansans who want clean air and wilderness areas are being actively opposed by the one department specifically charged with protecting our environment. The department is not an arm of our state's utilities and industrial polluters. The Department of Environmental Quality's entire "reason for being" is stated right there in its name.


    The Arkansas Sierra Club is committed to protecting our state's air, water, forests, and special places. Our "reason for being" is to serve as a check on those who would harm our health and resources. We are used to fighting against those in industry who are irresponsibly endangering our great state--but having to fight our own Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is frankly sickening.


    There is still time to correct this erroneous course of action and serve Arkansans properly. We call on those to whom our Department of Environmental Quality answers--namely, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission--to strongly remind the agency of its core mission and to order it to drop its opposition to reducing smog in our parks.


    In a time of deep divisions, Arkansas' air quality is an issue that should unite us all.

    ------------v------------

    Glen Hooks is director of the Arkansas Sierra Club.

    Editorial on 10/13/2017

  • 01 Oct 2017 12:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harrison farm puts free-range pork on menus, local tables


    By Nathan Owens

    Posted: October 1, 2017 at 2:07 a.m.

    NWA Democrat-Gazette


    HARRISON -- The meatballs at Bentonville's Oven & Tap restaurant, the pork chops at The Hive at the 21c Museum Hotel and the thinly sliced deli ham at Onyx Coffee Lab have one thing in common, the pork originates from Sean and Carol Bansley's Berkshire Ridge Farm in the Ozark Mountains.

    "We started raising animals because we wanted the best meat for ourselves and friends," Carol Bansley said. "And it's grown from there."

    Fleeing Iowa's harsh snowy months, the Bansleys moved their pig farm in 2013 to a nearly 300-acre Harrison property.

    At first sales were slim, about three hogs per month were going to nearby retailers, Sean Bansley said.

    However, in the last couple of years the first-generation farmers began making and sustaining connections in the Northwest Arkansas restaurant scene. Sales now average about 25 hogs per month.

    Business improved when Luke Wetzel, owner of Oven & Tap, found the Bansley's Facebook page and saw that they sold Berkshire heritage hogs -- a breed he became familiar with while working at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif.

    Wetzel said his training in California guided him in how he wanted to run a restaurant: Use local farmers who share similar food production ethics.

    The Bansley farm "really aligned perfectly with what I was after," Wetzel said. "I looked at their banner and Berkshire screamed at me. I think it's a great breed of hog."

    Early records indicate the large black-haired hogs were discovered more than 300 years ago in the shire of Berks in England. Since then, the Berkshire breed has become known in chef circles for its strong meat-to-fat ratio.

    The breed has been popular in Okinawa, Japan, for years, but its status in the United States has trailed off.

    According to the American Berkshire Association, this is largely because of current industry demands for pork that is more lean, but less flavorful.

    In Osceola, Iowa -- a state where pigs outnumber humans roughly 7-to-1 -- Sean Bansley worked in the nursery of Swine Graphics Enterprises for about three years.

    Inside, he herded thousands of commercial pigs in confined quarters.

    "It got to be too much," Bansley said. "I really didn't like seeing animals in that condition. They needed fresh air and sunshine."

    After witnessing the pitfalls of mass production, the Bansleys placed animal welfare at the forefront of their farming goals.

    Their farming practices in Iowa earned them Animal Welfare Approved certification for raising dozens of hogs on pastureland. The animals are given no hormones or antibiotics. They are given feed that has not been genetically modified.

    Now they care for hundreds of pigs and maintain their certification in Arkansas, along with seven other certified farms in the state.

    Wetzel first toured the Bansleys' rustic farm in 2015.

    "We struck a great relationship that day and they've become a family I want to continue to support," Wetzel said.

    Every other Tuesday the Bansleys drive two hours to pick up their butchered hogs from B&R processing in Winslow. Then they travel north to unload orders of shoulders, loins, bellies and hams to their regular stops.

    Oven & Tap buys a little more than 100 pounds at a time for its meatball dishes. Before the Bansleys delivered to restaurants, General Manager Mollie Mullis said she drove to the processor herself for shoulders and bellies.

    "We just thought it was worth it," Mullis said.

    Soon, Matt McClure, executive chef at The Hive, was buying a couple hundred pounds of pork from the Bansleys for bacon, breakfast sausage, pulled pork, ham and pork chops.

    "I think the Bansleys are doing the right thing. I think giving people a choice is the first step of changing this industry," Wetzel said. "You have a choice to go to a farmers market or go to a restaurant to eat food that's been properly grown and properly processed."

    Currently, they distribute to about 20 restaurants and a few health food stores in Arkansas.

    To meet current demand, they plan to expand their 25-acre pig pasture and increase sales to 35 hogs per month. Soon, the Bansleys said they would also like to produce capocollo, prosciutto and pancetta.

    "If we had to get big enough, where we couldn't do it this way, we wouldn't do it," Carol Bansley said. "We want to continue growing the way we feel right about it."

    At Berkshire Ridge Farm sits a yellow two-story house, surrounded by hundreds of pasture-raised pigs.

    "Booooaaaaaarrrr," Sean Bansley called one Friday morning. Crunching through the leaves, Bansley insisted the boar was big enough to ride; he'd posted photos on Facebook. If only he could find him.

    After combing the pasture, a hunk of black flesh revealed itself inside the tin shed up ahead. Inside, a massive hog burrowed into the cool, dark hay, like a dachshund cozies in between couch cushions. Bansley crouched beside his prized breeder: "C'mon, don'tcha wanna get up?"

    No matter what Bansley did, the boar refused to move. It was a little after 10 a.m.

    The sun was out, and it was time to nap.

    SundayMonday Business on 10/01/2017

  • 28 Sep 2017 3:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Save the Buffalo River


    For the future and heritage of Arkansas, save the Buffalo River. Let the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality hear your voice. What is environmental quality? River gone green? No fish? No children laughing in the swimming holes? Who wants that?


    Listen to wisdom, listen to the experts, please. Save the Buffalo River!


    SUSAN FIELDS

    Jasper

  • 23 Sep 2017 8:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Future of the Buffalo 


    My wife and I have a place at Centerville south of Dardanelle. The Petit Jean River is less than a couple of miles away, and it runs dirty. I have asked some of the people that were raised in the area of Petit Jean River, and they tell me that the river ran clear when they were children about 60 years ago.


    A person can drive across the pontoon bridge or anywhere from there to the other side of Blue Mountain Lake and see the river runs brown from the runoff of farms with chicken litter being placed on pastures and cropland. When litter is placed on the land, vultures will land in fields, thinking something is dead in the fields. The other day the stench was so bad on the Petit Jean River that vultures were lined up on the bank of the river at Slaty Crossing.


    To make a long story short, I believe this is the future of the Buffalo River, with all the hog-waste runoff into the river, and most of the fish will go missing. As in the Petit Jean River, the Buffalo River will run brown.


    JOSEPH L. BERRY

    Redfield

  • 23 Sep 2017 8:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Hog farm permit decision put off; more data sought

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: September 23, 2017 at 2:59 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter this week to the owners of C&H Hog Farms asking for more documentation of their facility and plans as the department continues to evaluate the facility's permit application.


    The documents are already in the public record, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance board member Brian Thompson told the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission on Friday. Thompson called the request, which allows C&H 90 days to respond, a delay tactic and an "affront to public trust."


    "What's troubling is their giving C&H three months to provide documentation that's already in the public record," Thompson said. "This process could easily go on for another six months. The way it's going, maybe it could go on for another year."


    C&H Hog Farms is located near Mount Judea in Newton County and sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where the creek converges with the Buffalo National River.

    The farm has drawn the ire of people concerned about the risk its hog manure poses to the Buffalo River. The facility is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed, which has been home to several small hog farms. C&H is currently permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.


    C&H applied for a new permit April 7, 2016, and has been operating under an extension of its old permit. The department held off making a preliminary decision on the new permit until February, after months of a Pollution Control and Ecology Commission appeal on another permit that sought to apply manure from C&H on land in the Buffalo River's watershed. The department accepted comments on the new permit application through early April of this year.


    The department requested geological site investigations performed at the facility; construction plans for its waste management system; information, including which water bodies are located nearby, related to the facility's nutrient management plan; status of the facility's manure storage ponds and the operation and maintenance plan for the pond levee.


    Thompson delivered his statements during the public comment portion of the commission's meeting Friday, and no commissioners asked questions of Thompson.

    After the meeting, department officials said they had requested the documents so they could be a part of the public record in C&H's new permit application and in response to public comments on C&H's permit application.


    Department Director Becky Keogh said her agency did not have a deadline for deciding whether to issue a new permit to C&H Hog Farms.


    While the Arkansas Legislature passed a law earlier this year giving the department six months to decide on Regulation 5 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, C&H's permit is grandfathered into old law, according to Caleb Osborne, department associate director in charge of the office of water quality.


    The department has explored ways to reduce the time it takes to issue new permits and permit modifications, but Keogh said C&H's permit was exceptional, given its controversy.


    "This is a permit that is going to take time," she said.

    The new permit indicates the facility would house up to six boars of about 450 pounds, 2,672 sows of at least 400 pounds and 750 piglets of about 14 pounds, and it estimates that the two waste-holding ponds would contain up to 2,337,074 gallons of hog manure, similar to what is contained now. Additional waste and wastewater would be applied over certain sites as fertilizer.

    Metro on 09/23/2017


  • 20 Sep 2017 1:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Greenwire


    Audit slams flagging EPA bid to curb farm emissions  

    Sean Reilly, E&E News reporter


    Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2017


    More than a decade after agreeing to keep tabs on emissions from large-scale animal feedlots, U.S. EPA isn't close to getting the job done, the agency's inspector general said in a new report, which found the delay is undercutting the broader effort to regulate pollution from that sector.

    As of this spring, EPA had not published any emissions estimating methodologies for such "animal feeding operations" and still had no work plan or timetable for completing them, according to the report, released yesterday by Inspector General Arthur Elkins' office.

    The result: Individual operations, which can produce significant amounts of ammonia and other hazardous air pollutants, haven't come up with the data needed to determine whether they should put pollution controls in place or report their emissions to emergency responders, the report said. And until EPA officials finish work on the estimating methods, they are refusing to act on citizen petitions to regulate emissions from animal feeding operations, often known as AFOs, on the grounds that the methods "are needed to inform the agency's decision-making," the report said.

    Among other recommendations, Elkins' office urged EPA to launch "comprehensive systematic planning" for developing the needed estimating methods and then publicly release a schedule for issuing them.

    In a written response attached to the report, acting EPA air chief Sarah Dunham agreed with the recommendations and said the agency expects to set the schedules next spring.

    While most feed operations are relatively small, the Agriculture Department estimates there are about 18,000 that may raise thousands of cattle, hogs and other animals in tightly confined quarters. Air pollution can come from decaying manure and animal feed, potentially posing health risks to nearby communities.

    Unlike with industrial sources, however, there's not necessarily a straightforward way of keeping track of the resulting emissions. In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that accurate estimates were needed to determine how much pollution such agriculture operations were putting out and what kind of controls might be needed.

    After more than two years of talks with producer groups, EPA in 2005 agreed to use monitoring data from an industry-funded study to develop the emissions estimating methods. At that point, agency officials expected to start publishing the final methods in 2009, with individual AFOs soon after following up to calculate their emissions, apply for applicable Clean Air Act permits and install any necessary pollution controls.

    That timetable turned out to be wildly optimistic, the inspector general report indicated. The industry monitoring study took two years longer than originally expected; EPA had also not accounted for the time needed to get approval from an in-house board for agreements to protect individual producers from lawsuits or other enforcement actions for alleged violations until the new system was in place.

    Yet another hang-up emerged when EPA's Science Advisory Board, a body of independent experts, found in 2013 that a draft version of the estimating methods for some pollutants and sources wouldn't provide an accurate gauge of overall emissions. The board urged more work.

    Since then, the entire enterprise has essentially been dead in the water, the inspector general's report suggested.

    EPA has not revised the draft estimating methods or come up with additional approaches for other pollutant combinations. After key employees retired, moreover, "the agency in recent years did not have staff with combined expertise in agricultural emissions, air quality and statistical analysis," the report said.

    Not only does EPA still lack a good handle of the amount of pollution the sector is producing, but the enforcement protections for about 14,000 feeding operations that participated in the original agreement remain in force more than six years after they were intended to expire. Given that EPA still lacks reliable methods, the report said that "it was difficult to estimate how many facilities could be exceeding" emissions benchmarks for the Clean Air Act and other laws.

    But in monitoring conducted as part of one 2003 enforcement case, EPA found that two large egg-laying operations were producing annual particulate matter emissions of 700 tons and 550 tons, respectively, far above the 250-ton-per-year permitting threshold, the inspector general found.

    Twitter: @SeanatGreenwire Email: sreilly@eenews.net

    GREENWIRE HEADLINES — Wednesday, September 20, 2017 

       

  • 17 Sep 2017 7:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Don't forget hog farm


    With all the attention focused on the environmental tragedy in Texas, we in Arkansas are losing sight of the smaller but significant one here, C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed. I want to thank Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Mike Masterson for keeping this issue alive and before the public.


    The hog farm is seeking a new permit to increase the territory that it can use to spray millions of gallons of raw hog manure. It appears the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is ignoring all the evidence to the contrary and is wrongheadedly considering a new permit. It should be revoking the old permit and closing this hog farm and its manure fields down.


    The loss of the farm and its few low-wage jobs will be nothing compared to the economic and environmental loss if the pollution to the river is not stopped and reversed.


    Gentle readers, be in touch with the Department of Environmental Quality and express your views. Thanks again, Mike.


    JAY FULBRIGHT III

    Malvern

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