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  • 27 Nov 2017 1:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ‘Limited impact’ seen near hog farm

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: November 27, 2017 at 1 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    Researchers in the University of Arkansas System say the stream next to C&H Hog Farms in Newton County has phosphorous and nitrogen levels akin to other similar streams in northern Arkansas.


    In a research letter published this fall in Agricultural & Environmental Letters, researchers working on the Big Creek Research and Extension Team examining C&H's environmental impact wrote their finding suggests "limited impact" of C&H on Big Creek. But longer-term research is needed, they wrote.


    The Big Creek Research and Extension Team continues to study Big Creek near C&H using state money. It is formed out of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The team has been conducting the study since 2013.


    In the meantime, any new medium or large hog farms are banned in the Buffalo River's watershed until at least 2020, pending the outcome of the research.

    Critics of the Big Creek Research and Extension Team have argued the sampling has not been robust enough to measure C&H's impact and that the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture deals with the agricultural community too often to be unbiased.


    The six-page letter, published online Oct. 26, details sampling of phosphorous and nitrogen from the Buffalo River, Upper Illinois and Upper White River watersheds. The sampling shows that concentrations in Big Creek upstream and downstream of C&H are "typical of streams draining similar land uses," the letter states.


    "However, this does not preclude the possibility that nutrient concentrations at Big Creek may increase over time, especially if human development and activity in the drainage areas increase," the letter reads later.


    Researchers noted that sampling results in three years of study -- from May 2014 through April 2017 -- did not appear to show that nitrogen and phosphorus had increased in three years in Big Creek. But they said data collection over 10 years would be needed to "reliably quantify water-quality trends and characterize sources," based on previous research.

    NW News on 11/27/2017



  • 26 Nov 2017 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Environment notebook

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    'Limited impact' seen near hog farm


    Researchers in the University of Arkansas System say the stream next to C&H Hog Farms in Newton County has phosphorous and nitrogen levels akin to other similar streams in northern Arkansas.

    In a research letter published this fall in Agricultural & Environmental Letters, researchers working on the Big Creek Research and Extension Team examining C&H's environmental impact wrote their finding suggests "limited impact" of C&H on Big Creek. But longer-term research is needed, they wrote.

    The Big Creek Research and Extension Team continues to study Big Creek near C&H using state funds. It is formed out of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The team has been conducting the study since 2013.

    In the meantime, any new medium or large hog farms are banned in the Buffalo River's watershed until at least 2020, pending the outcome of the research.

    Critics of the Big Creek Research and Extension Team have argued the sampling has not been robust enough to measure C&H's impact and that the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture deals with the agricultural community too often to be unbiased.

    The six-page letter, published online Oct. 26, details sampling of phosphorous and nitrogen from the Buffalo River, Upper Illinois and Upper White River watersheds. The sampling shows that concentrations in Big Creek upstream and downstream of C&H are "typical of streams draining similar land uses," the letter states.

    "However, this does not preclude the possibility that nutrient concentrations at Big Creek may increase over time, especially if human development and activity in the drainage areas increase," the letter reads later.

    Researchers noted that sampling results in three years of study -- from May 2014 through April 2017 -- did not appear to show that nitrogen and phosphorus had increased in three years in Big Creek. But they said data collection over 10 years would be needed to "reliably quantify water-quality trends and characterize sources," based on previous research.

    $400,000 awarded for watershed tests

    The Arkansas Water Resources Center has received $400,000 to collect water samples in the Poteau River's watershed, according to an announcement from the center.

    The funds come from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission's 319 program for nonpoint source pollution programs, which is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nonpoint sources are sources of pollution that are not directly discharging into a water body.

    The funds will be used to collect hundreds of samples from at least 13 sites in western Arkansas. The samples will be used to measure how much nutrients and sediments move within the 1,889-square-mile watershed. The research could help identify areas that need special attention for water quality improvements, according to the announcement.

    Metro on 11/26/2017

  • 26 Nov 2017 7:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Agency draws 17 remarks on water

    Analysis of rivers, lakes reassessed

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Concerns about the Buffalo River and available data figured prominently in comments submitted to the state's environmental agency about its amended plan to assess water bodies.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is reworking the guidelines it uses to determine if a body of water is impaired. Impaired water bodies are reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Public comments regarding the department's draft for its methodology were accepted through Nov. 13. Department officials will respond to the comments when they finalize the methodology.

    The department received 17 comments from 16 people and groups. Many asked the department to clarify portions of the document, to define phrases, and to provide rationale and formulas for certain portions. Many also expressed concern that the department's methodology would ignore data that respondents thought should be considered, or not account for issues that have occurred on the Buffalo River and its watershed.

    Before the comment period, the department held six public meetings with 23 stakeholders -- including conservation, government and industry groups -- to discuss the assessment methodology and what stakeholders wanted to be included as part of it.

    The department issued its draft in the fall. It includes many changes for clarity and consistency with regulations, and rules on data that will be considered. It also includes for the first time a method for analyzing continuous data, which come from frequent sampling. Previously, the methodology contained only protocol for analyzing more occasional sampling.

    The National Park Service and the Arkansas Department of Health noted in their comments that the "data assembly" portion of the methodology appears to omit existing data that they consider potentially valuable.

    The Health Department takes samples monthly, but the proposed changes would require that it sample more, the agency said.

    "The Department of Health's bacteriological data is a consistent data source that significantly contributes to understand water quality in Arkansas and, for that reason, should be included in the assessment of impairment," Lyle Godfrey, the Health Department's technical support chief, wrote in the agency's comments.

    The Department of Environmental Quality indicated that a data set of monthly samples could still be used if combined with another data set to create eight samples within a five-month period.

    In comments, the National Park Service also expressed a concern that, under the methodology, algal blooms on the Buffalo River over the past two summers should mean that the river is designated as impaired.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance said the current and proposed methodology doesn't consider algal blooms, specifically. That's because the nutrients -- phosphorus and nitrogen -- that cause algae are not reported at a numeric level.

    The alliance recommended that the state develop numeric standards for nutrients statewide. The standards currently exist only for a portion of Beaver Lake.

    Several other Arkansas residents expressed concern for the Buffalo River, but many failed to specifically address the assessment methodology and the department considered them to be "out of scope."

    People also expressed concern about whether the department's methodology is in accordance with water anti-degradation requirements and its own anti-degradation policy.

    Anti-degradation, required under the Clean Water Act, is intended to prevent waters of higher ecological value from degrading any further than they currently are. Arkansas has an anti-degradation policy but is one of only two states with no formal implementation plan for it.

    The National Park Service expressed concern that tributaries to waterways like the Buffalo River are not held to high enough standards because the state lacks an anti-degradation plan, that the department should support the protection of the existing conditions of a water body and that the department should err on the side of caution with certain sensitive water bodies until it develops and implements an anti-degradation plan.

    The National Park Service also noted that certain phrases in the methodology on how a final determination will be made suggest that the department will inject subjectivity into its analysis.

    The EPA raised several questions about how data would be considered and argued against the state department's proposal to combine data sets taken during certain seasons, saying it was "diluting the data set."

    The EPA, and others who commented, argued that waters that appeared to be impaired but needed more data to confirm it should be listed as impaired and not among the waters that already have alternative pollution controls in place, as the department proposes.

    Some comments expressed a desire for the department to use the conclusions of a scientist who did research in the 1980s for Arkansas to inform the methodology.

    A few responses, including from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, noted that the department's assessment methodology draft still includes changes for the maximum amount a water body can exceed the standards to still be considered in attainment of water quality standards.

    The department has asked to change the threshold for exceeding minerals levels from 10 percent of the time to 25 percent of the time, while the EPA has not approved the change.

  • 20 Nov 2017 8:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    Clean up act by January, hog farm told 

     Manure runoff a concern at Buffalo watershed site

    By  Emily Walkenhorst


    HARRISON -- A 2,400-hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed must clean up the manure on its property within the next 60 days, a Boone County circuit judge has ordered.

    Sanders Farm, in Newton County, must empty a barn of dry pig manure, revegetate land and keep the hogs on its property, Judge Gail Inman-Campbell said.


    A neighbor complained to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality about manure running off from Sanders Farm in July, and, after taking a month to investigate the complaint and three months to send the farm a letter on its findings, the department took Sanders Farm to court Nov. 7 to shut it down.


    At the time of the complaint and investigation, Sanders Farm had been letting pigs roam freely and had placed piles of dry manure outside protected barns, exposing them to rainfall that could run off onto nearby lands, including Cedar Creek, which drains into Davis Creek, which drains into the Buffalo River. Department officials in August saw dark brown stormwater runoff crossing the county road and nearing Cedar Creek. They determined that the runoff contained manure.


    The department, arguing that the operation effectively contained liquid animal waste, said the farm was violating environmental laws with the maintenance of the site and by not having a permit to operate. New medium and large confined animal operations that use liquid waste disposal are banned in the Buffalo River's watershed until 2020, pending research on C&H Hog Farms' effect on the river. Sanders Farm is a medium-sized confined animal operation.


    On Nov. 7, shortly after the department filed its complaint, Judge Gordon Webb granted temporary injunctive relief against Sanders Farm for 10 days, a period that ended Thursday.

    On Thursday, Inman-Campbell, who was reassigned the case, heard testimony from the department and Patrick and Starlinda Sanders about their farm just outside Western Grove.

    The Sanderses started the farm in August 2015, intending to run a dry litter operation, which does not require a permit from the department, they testified. They did not obtain a nutrient management plan for the project, however, which was required.


    But the Sanderses ran into trouble earlier this year when their pigs began to get sick, they testified. The pigs kept reproducing, but the Sanderses couldn't sell them because of their illnesses.


    The Sanderses eventually had about 3,200 pigs on their land when a neighbor complained to the department.


    Since then, the Sanderses have been able to reduce the number of pigs to about 2,400, Patrick Sanders testified.


    "We did make mistakes," he said after the hearing. "We were just totally overwhelmed."

    Tracey Rothermel, an attorney for the department, asked Inman-Campbell to order the Sanderses to clean up their property and sell all of their hogs as a part of an injunction against the couple.


    The Sanderses had agreed to clean up their property but protested selling all of their pigs because of the damage it would cause to their livelihoods.


    Rothermel argued that an injunction was needed because no monetary penalties could reduce the environmental harm already caused by Sanders Farm.

    "What damages can you pay to the environment?" she asked.


    Inman-Campbell said she was not ready to ask the Sanderses to sell their pigs but ordered the other remediations of the property within 60 days. She will hold a follow-up hearing Jan. 12 to determine compliance.

    Metro on 11/20/2017

  • 11 Nov 2017 9:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    MASTERSON ONLINE: Not hog-wild on the river

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: November 11, 2017 at 1:56 a.m.


    Owners of C&H Hog Farms with the Brazilian meat processor JBS are hoping our state’s Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) will approve their request for yet another factory permit.

    Their proposed meat-growing plant would allow up to 7,200 swine whose raw waste would be regularly spread across 1,427 acres in the flood-prone Arkansas River bottomlands southwest of Clarksville.

    Oh, relax, folks. What could possibly go wrong, especially in the floodplain of Arkansas’ largest river? Well, OK, I suppose you might could check with those living along the once magnificent Neuse River in North Carolina. They have a horror story waiting. But, hey, that’s way over in North Carolina.

    Besides, resistance may be futile. Who expects our Department of Environmental Quality to be anything but receptive to issuing the C&H owners and the Brazilians a second permit? Remember how hurriedly and quietly these politicized guardians of environmental quality basically gift-wrapped the first one for these same folks to operate in the middle of our karst-riddled Buffalo National River watershed?

    Certainly not me after seeing how obliging the department has been to quietly and quickly clear any potential obstacles from the smooth path they cleared. Golly gee, I wish they liked me that much.

    The only difference I see is this time around involves initial transparency and public input. Just announcing the plans for this latest factory has drawn statewide headlines, along with considerable ire from many folks around the small Northwest Arkansas community of Hartman.

    Seems many area folks aren’t hog-wild about the idea of living with what they fear is the likelihood of the overpowering stench continually wafting across their property and into their homes and businesses that only a massive hog factory can provide.

    Plus, there is that side matter of JBS, the world’s largest meat-packing corporation, being under a continuing criminal probe stemming from alleged corruption. Seems there are those in Brazil and other countries who are most concerned with the corporation’s business practices.

    I’ve written for four years (feels more like eight) about how my sincere concerns with the factory in our national river’s watershed lie solely with its grossly inappropriate location, rather than with the acknowledged experience, competence or abilities of the owners.

    Needlessly risking the contamination of our precious and prized Buffalo to ensure the business enterprise of one Newton County family and a multinational corporation is a disgraceful, ghastly mistake.

    Nonetheless, a JBS mouthpiece for its pork products showed up for a town-hall-type meeting the other day to face deeply concerned citizens about this proposal for a sister factory. Vigilant reporter Emily Walkenhorst wrote that the South American corporation plans to raise the Hartman factory and its waste lagoons by a whole four feet to avoid possible floodwaters from the Arkansas River.

    Besides, JBS doesn’t believe the site where its farm would set up shop will flood since a levee was built along the Arkansas River (shades of New Orleans). A spokesperson said in an email that neither the corporation nor local owners Jason Henson and Phillip and Richard Campbell “desire to build a farm where flooding is likely.”

    Notice the term “likely” in place of “possible.”

    Hartman Mayor Rita Griffin didn’t seem overly impressed. She said she just couldn’t see allowing an enormous hog factory (it’s not a farm in any traditional sense, rather a meat-producing factory, so let’s agree to call it exactly what it is) on the Arkansas River near Hartman.

    “I can’t visualize doing that to your waterways,” she said. Apparently Her Honor hasn’t followed what’s been happening with the country’s first national waterway in the Ozarks of Newton county, also thanks to the Department of Environmental Quality. It’s enough to have prompted our former governor to call that wrongheaded decision his biggest regret in office.

    The mayor expressed concerns of many in Johnson County that these bottomlands, which regularly flood, as they did even this summer, could wash million of gallons of that raw waste into the river, as well as nearby Horsehead Creek. But JBS added it likes the property because of the proximity to related facilities. FEMA says the acreage in question represents a “flood hazard zone” with some specific areas at reduced risk because of the levee.

    But wouldn’t you know, our diligent Department of Environmental Quality doesn’t even have requirements about placing a large hog factory in a floodplain. Say what now?

    Lots of folks love bacon, ham, pork chops, Boston butts and pork rinds. And I know they come from swine that have to be raised somewhere. The only problem I have, along with so many other Arkansans, is where they are raised by meat factories in our state. Common sense tells us the worst possible places are far from the best choices, which would include a popular national river’s watershed that attracts millions of recreational dollars annually to the state, or a known flood hazard plain along the state’s largest river.

    And for those who might have considered squealing with delight at the thought that this latest plan in Johnson County might portend the existing factory relocating from the Buffalo watershed: Forget about it. The owners made it clear their intentions at Hartman do not mean they are moving their controversial Buffalo enterprise. In short, Hartman would become their hog heaven number two.

    For our vets

    Happy Veterans Day to those serving our nation in uniform and the honorable men and women who have invested their life blood in military service. We owe you appreciation and gratitude for nothing less than the treasured freedoms we enjoy.

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

  • 06 Nov 2017 5:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    November 6, 2017

    Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee Launches Website

    NORTH LITTLE ROCK —The Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee (BBRAC) announces the launch of its website on Monday, November 6, 2017.  BBRAC created an independent website to share relevant information regarding the preservation of the Buffalo River as a state and national landmark. The BBRAC website provides information about the Committee, useful resources, and engagement opportunities for the public.

    The website features all BBRAC meeting materials including presentations, video recordings, agendas, and special reports. The website also provides upcoming meeting information and a means to submit questions, comments, or presentation requests directly to BBRAC. The web address for the BBRAC website is bbrac.arkansas.gov.

    BBRAC was established by Governor Asa Hutchinson in 2016 to develop an Arkansas-led, non-regulatory approach to identify opportunities to protect and support the vitality of the Buffalo River. BBRAC is comprised of the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Agriculture Department, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas Geographic Information Systems Office are BBRAC partners. 

  • 05 Nov 2017 7:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Bottomland site’s neighbors leery of C&H; owners’ proposal

    By  Emily Walkenhorst 


    JOHNSON COUNTY -- The owners of C&H Hog Farms and the international corporation that supplies the operation's swine are planning to apply for a permit to operate another farm, this one in a flood-prone area just south of Hartman.

    The proposal has angered nearby farmers and some residents of Hartman and other parts of Johnson County who are concerned about possible flooding and odor from such a farm.

    JBS, the Brazilian company that is proposing the hog farm, said the location is advantageous for the company because of its proximity to related facilities and that it should be safe from flooding.

    JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Friday that the site of the farm "is not known to have flooded" since a levee was constructed to protect it from the Arkansas River, but others in the area -- including the Hartman mayor -- disputed that claim.

    "JBS nor the farm owners desire to build a farm where flooding is likely," Bruett said in an email.

    Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality regulations don't note requirements related to flood plains.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood mapping system places the Hartman bottoms in a "flood hazard zone." Some of the bottoms are labeled in the mapping system as "1% Annual Chance Flood Hazard" and some are labeled as "Area with Reduced Risk Due to Levee."

    While the exact location of the 1,427 acres where hog manure would be applied to land is unclear, a 5,200-sow, 2,000-gilt [young sows] facility would be constructed in the bottoms. At least some of the acres where manure would be applied would be in the bottoms. They would "complement the surrounding farm ground, providing fertilizer for grass and crop production," Bruett said.

    A representative of JBS' live-pork division told attendees at a recent public meeting that the facility and its hog waste lagoons would be built up 4 feet to avoid floodwaters.

    Still, Hartman Mayor Rita Griffin said she is concerned the flooding that is typical of the bottoms, and that occurred there this summer, could wash hog manure into nearby waterways, including Horsehead Creek and the Arkansas River.

    "I can't see them putting that large of a hog farm on the Arkansas River," Griffin said. "I just can't visualize doing that to your waterways."

    C&H Hog Farms, near Mount Judea in Newton County, already has drawn the ire of many concerned about the environmental risk its hog manure poses to the Buffalo National River, the nation's first national river.

    That operation sits on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek converges with the Buffalo. Environmental groups and others fear that manure from the farm -- the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed -- could find its way into the Buffalo River and pollute the water, like what has happened in other states.

    JBS officials and the farm's operators -- Jason Henson, Phillip Campbell and Richard Campbell -- have met with Griffin three times concerning their plans to apply for a permit for an operation near Hartman. They held a town-hall-style meeting Oct. 19 at the Johnson County Courthouse in Clarksville. The room was full, mostly with skeptics of the proposal.

    JBS officials told the crowd that the farm would provide jobs in the community and produce food in a resource-strapped and increasingly populous and prosperous world. Officials answered questions from the audience about odor -- they said JBS hog farms don't get many complaints about odor -- and the potential for flooding, which they said shouldn't be a concern.

    All but two people raised their hands when asked who opposed the hog farm as presented that night, including Jerry Masters, executive vice president of the Arkansas Pork Producers Association. Most people expressed a concern about the odor reaching Hartman.

    Henson said the group would host another meeting. JBS and owners of C&H Hog Farms did not give an indication of when they would submit their permit application to the Department of Environmental Quality.

    The farm near Hartman would start with 5,200 sows, which would then be bred to produce thousands of offspring to be housed on the site and then sent to other facilities in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

    It would be a farrow-to-finish facility, meaning hogs would be raised to their ideal weight for slaughter and then sent off to a finishing site. It would employ 18-20 people, according to JBS. Company officials estimate $9.5 million in local economic impact in the construction of the farm and a $2.5 million annual economic impact once it is up and running.

    Johnson County's unemployment rate slightly exceeds the state's average, about 4 percent compared with the state's 3.4 percent, not seasonally adjusted, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau's website does not post seasonally adjusted data by county.

    But Griffin noted the importance of hunting and fishing near the bottoms and said she worries that odor from a hog farm and possible flooding that includes hog manure are a risk to those things.

    The farm would be federally classified as a large concentrated animal-feeding operation and would not be a relocation of C&H, Henson, the co-owner of C&H, told the crowd at the recent meeting. Hartman bottoms are more than 60 miles southwest of Mount Judea, where Henson lives.

    The land just south of Hartman is protected from the Arkansas River by a levee owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It has never been overtopped, said Miles Brown, a spokesman for the Corps.

    Brown said the levee does not protect the land from flooding from any other bodies of water in the area. Brown also said the levee could slow the draining of water into the river.

    Richard Plugge, a neighboring farmer, recalled flooding earlier this year that made its way onto the land of all four of the farmers in the bottoms. The National Weather Service confirmed that the area was under a flash-flood warning Aug. 15.

    Plugge, 83, was born in the front bedroom of his family's house on Main Street in Hartman and has never lived anywhere else. He said he can recall floods going back to 1943.

    Plugge grows corn and soybeans on land that neighbors where the proposed farm and hog manure would go, and he said he doesn't want floods to wash manure onto his fields.

    Plugge applies 2 tons per acre of poultry litter to his 1,300 acres, most of which are in the bottoms, every other year. That's less than what the proposed hog farm would likely contribute to its 1,427 acres.

    A large hog farm can generate millions of gallons of manure each year. In 2016, C&H -- which is smaller than the proposed farm in Hartman bottoms would be -- produced 2.5 million gallons, or about 9,300 tons, according to an annual report filed with the Department of Environmental Quality.

    How much waste would be generated by the proposed hog farm or how the farm would compare in size with the 164 other permitted active hog farming operations across Arkansas is unclear.

    Metro on 11/05/2017

    Print Headline: Hog farm plan stirs new outcry

  • 31 Oct 2017 7:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Board is filled in on waste districts

    No way to avoid failure, state says

    By Emily Walkenhorst


    Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality officials are not aware of a way they could have prevented the financial collapse of a regional solid waste district or could prevent another one in the future, an agency attorney told the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission on Friday.

    The department is spending $12.9 million to bail out the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District, but the money will be recouped through a fee of $18 per year that will be paid by the residents of Carroll, Boone, Marion, Baxter, Searcy and Newton counties in north Arkansas.

    Commissioner Wesley Stites, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, has asked the department for the past several months to provide him with a report on how the solid waste district failed and what the department can do to prevent another district failure in the future.

    Stites chastised department officials last month for communicating with him verbally rather than providing a written report, which prompted department Director Becky Keogh to decline to speak to the commission as per usual this month. Department Senior Deputy Director Julie Chapman told the commission that Keogh declined because there was no longer a "symbiotic" relationship between the department and the commission.

    Department attorney Mike McAlister said that while the financial troubles of the district preceded his arrival at the department in September 2012, he did not believe that the department had any choices that would have drastically changed the outcome when the district was first unable to pay its bills.

    The financially and environmentally troubled North Arkansas Board of Regional Sanitation landfill has been run by the Department of Environmental Quality since 2014, although the Ozark Mountain Regional Solid Waste District owns the landfill. The district is in receivership.

    The district voted to default on a $12.3 million bond in 2012 and stopped collecting trash. Trash collection was its only source of revenue. The district purchased the landfill from a private company in 2005, but most of the counties took their trash elsewhere.

    The landfill has leaked and presented other environmental concerns that the department intends to clean up with the $12.9 million contract to close the landfill for good.

    The Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District also has been unable to clean up a dump of 1 million tires next to the landfill.

    Some officials in the area have expressed dismay about the $18 fee. Carroll County Justice of the Peace Lamont Ritchie told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazettethat he was frustrated over the reason residents would have to pay and said he felt that district officials and board members had largely escaped accountability.

    Residents will have to pay back the $12.9 million the department expects to spend, as well has hundreds of thousands of dollars in receiver's fees and attorneys' fees.

    Arkansas has 18 regional solid waste districts that are overseen by the department but locally run. Their boards of directors consist of mayors and county judges in the districts, and hiring and budgeting decisions are made by the local leaders. The districts are often paired, by choice, with one of the state's 12 waste tire districts and sometimes with planning and development districts.

    In 2015, the Arkansas Legislature passed a law that would allow the department to spend funds from the landfill post-closure trust fund to clean up the landfill. Before that, because the landfill had not been closed, it would not have been eligible for the funds.

    Keogh told Stites last month that the department can't always prevent problems that arise from decisions made at the local level. She said the department tries to keep an eye on districts' finances.

    Stites asked if the commission could pass any rules or regulations that would help the department prevent financial collapses of districts in the future.

    "Specifically, I'm not aware of any one given action or set of actions that this body could have taken," McAlister said, adding that he was not aware of any actions being taken to keep the same problem from happening again in the same district or in a different district.

    Stites asked if that means that Ozark Mountain's collapse was inevitable, could happen again and could not be avoided in the future.

    "I suppose that's true," McAlister said.

    "That being said, we're going to be watching," McAlister added before being cut off by Stites, who noted that McAlister's and others' institutional knowledge of the Ozark Mountain case will eventually disappear from the department.

  • 30 Oct 2017 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times


    Environmental regulation in Arkansas: toxic divide

    Posted By  on Mon, Oct 30, 2017 at 6:57 AM

    • BECKY KEOGH: Department of Environmental Quality director refuses to attend Pollution Control and Ecology Commission meeting.
    Belatedly, a note on a Sunday article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on the state's $13 million bailout of a solid waste management district in North Arkansas.

    A bigger story seemed to lurk in a passage several paragraphs down in the article about a meeting of the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission:

    Commissioner Wesley Stites, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, has asked the department for the past several months to provide him with a report on how the solid waste district failed and what the department can do to prevent another district failure in the future.

    Stites chastised department officials last month for communicating with him verbally rather than providing a written report, which prompted department Director Becky Keogh to decline to speak to the commission as per usual this month. Department Senior Deputy Director Julie Chapman told the commission that Keogh declined because there was no longer a "symbiotic" relationship between the department and the commission.
    The director of the state Department of Environmental Quality will not speak to the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission or provide written reports? There is no "symbiotic" relationship?

    Sound like a problem? Gov. Hutchinson?

    Environmentalists might tell you a larger problem is laissez-faire regulation by the state department, unsurprising since Keogh came from an extraction industry job (she's also the sister-in-law of the state Republican Party chair). The governor, attorney general and Arkansas representatives in Congress have been endeavoring to do everything possible to reduce requirements on business to contribute to cleaner air and water. The permit for the Buffalo River watershed factory hog farm is not an isolated instance of questionable ADEQ work.
  • 29 Oct 2017 8:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    nwaonline


    Buffalo River: Our national treasure

    By RICHARD MASON Special to the Democrat-Gazette

    Posted: October 29, 2017 at 2 a.m.



    Unless you have been living under a rock, you know Our National Treasure refers to the Buffalo River, our country's first national river. The Buffalo is an old friend of mine. I have floated, swam and fished it many times. I first met the Buffalo when I was attending the University of Arkansas and joined a group of students called the Ozark Hikers. Well, we hiked very little, but I think the Ozark Spelunkers would have been too much of a mouthful for a bunch of college kids.


    Yes, we were cave explorers, and pretty unconventional ones. A typical weekend would find us driving around where the Boone Limestone outcropped, pulling up to a rancher or farmer's house with this spiel: "We're from the university, you know that school over in Fayetteville, and we explore caves. Are there any caves around here, and do you mind if we go in 'em?" Almost every rural farmer or rancher in the area where the Boone Limestone outcropped would nod, and soon we would be deep into some cave that probably very few folks knew existed.


    I can still hear one old farmer after we asked about any caves on his property, "Yeah, boys, there's one on my back 40, but it ain't no big deal. But one of the Tucker boys went in and said it gets real little, and then there's a big room. Just head off behind the barn down yonder, and you'll see a little opening 'bout 200 yards down across the fence. Watch out for bats and snakes."


    That's exactly the kind of cave we were looking for, and in about 15 minutes we were standing there looking at a 6-foot-wide hole in a limestone cliff. Since I was the skinniest of the bunch, I was picked to lead the way. I put on my headlight and 30 minutes later I was into the cave about 200 yards, on my knees with my headlight shining into the darkness, hoping to see the big room the farmer mentioned. The cave was about 10 feet wide to start with, but after about 200 yards it slowly became narrower and smaller until I was crawling, inching along when someone back of me yelled, "Richard, do you see the big room the man told us about?"


    "No, but I think the cave may be opening up." I was wrong. Thirty minutes later, after crawling another couple of hundred yards through bat manure, dead bats and mud, I could feel the roof of the cave on my back and the floor of the cave on my stomach. As a lay there in mud and bat guano I figured the Tucker boys must have been midgets, because I was calling it quits.


    "Everybody back up!" I yelled. "I can't go any further." I'm not claustrophobic, but there were a few minutes of near panic, since I couldn't turn around in the tight space, and everyone had to crawl backwards for about 100 yards.


    I know you're wondering why I'm telling stories about an Ozark cave when I'm supposed to be writing on the Buffalo National River. It's because the caves are the keys to understanding the river. There are over 300 known caves in the Buffalo's watershed, and thousands of small caves, all of which are interconnected, and ultimately all of these caves dump their water into the Buffalo.


    A significant part of the Buffalo flows across a landscape created by the Boone Limestone, and a huge amount of water flows out of the Limestone each day into the river. This is the lifeblood of the river. When rains flood the landscape, the water either runs off into streams or percolates down into the Limestone and eventually all of the water not absorbed by the land's topsoil ends up in the river. Of course, the water that falls on the ground and runs off or percolates into the subsurface carries with it a portion of whatever is on the surface of the ground.


    If you dump the refuse from 6,500 pigs on fields anywhere on the Buffalo watershed, some of that pig manure is eventually going to end up in the river. Just imagine the amount of waste from a town of 20,000 dumped year after year on the watershed fields, and you will understand the threat to the river.


    The factory hog farm is located on the worst terrain in the state and probably in the mid-South. This terrain is called a karst topography. Karst: think of a sponge or Swiss cheese. As rains falls on the fields in the Buffalo National River Watershed, where the hog manure from the holding lagoon is spread, the river will be polluted. That is a virtual certainty. The only question is how much and how long it will take.


    As an expert familiar with the geologic setting, I believe the factory farm hog permit should be revoked, because of the overwhelming evidence that the facility will pollute the river. However, establishing the Beautiful Buffalo Action Committee will not stop the hog farm from polluting the river. It can only make watershed recommendations, and the committee has no authority to revoke the permit. The situation is so critical that immediate action is a necessity, and only the governor or the director of the Department of Environmental Quality can stop the Buffalo from being polluted.


    Governor, a state agency has made a horrendous mistake in granting a permit to allow the factory hog farm to be located on the worst possible terrain in the mid-South. You should immediately revoke the permit! Your "Pretend to Care Committee" cannot revoke the factory hog farm permit, and unless the hog farm is relocated to a more suitable location, it is almost a certainty the river will be polluted.


    What is a more suitable location? A freshman geology student could tell you to move it out of the National Buffalo River Watershed and onto land where the Fayetteville Shale outcrops. It is not fair to just revoke the permit and have the owners of the factory hog farm take a loss. The state is to blame, and the state should step forward and admit they shouldn't have granted the permit, and buy out the hog farm.


    Governor, if that doesn't happen, you and the director will be the ones to blame when the Buffalo is polluted. Are you ready for the signs on the boat landings? "No swimming or fishing!"


    Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email richard@gibraltarenergy.com.

    Editorial on 10/29/2017




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