Buffalo River 
Watershed
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  • 17 Mar 2018 8:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    New names called for


    Should the state Legislature pass, and the governor sign, the legislative end run around the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality permit appeal filed by C&H Hog Farms, I would then suggest that the "Natural State" change its motto to "The Pig Manure State" (expletive modified), and that the Buffalo River should be changed to The First National Pig Manure Trough (expletive modified).


    JOHN J. FRITZ


  • 17 Mar 2018 8:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I have been following the fiasco regarding the C&H Hog Farms permit from the beginning.


    Mike Masterson with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has written several columns regarding this misplaced hog farm that is polluting the Buffalo National River. It seems the Department of Environmental Quality did not follow many of its own rules and regulations by granting the original permit for the farm.


    I read in the paper that the state Legislature sneaked a last-minute item in the special session to let C&H continue to operate on its original permit which allows up to 5,000 gallons per day of hog waste to leak from the hog waste ponds. I ask the Democrat-Gazette to publish a list of our state legislators who voted for and against this proposal so the voters can see how they voted on this critical issue.


    The former legislators who pushed through for the Buffalo River to be designated as a national river must be rolling over in their graves!


    TERRY MONTAGNE

  • 17 Mar 2018 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Explanation of karst


    This writer is a retired engineer peacefully living out his life on rural acreage near Mena. I have no dog in the hog farm hunt, nor do I belong to any environmental groups. But I have had considerable firsthand experience in dealing with underlying karst formations when designing and building cement mills and other heavy industrial plants.


    In layman's terms, karst can best be compared to the ant farm my sons had as children. Visualize a series of cracks, fissures and voids beneath a surface that otherwise shows little indication of such. Pour liquid on the surface of that ant farm and it soon finds its way to the bottom. Such is the case with karst, except there is no bottom for containment. Instead, it finds its way to an underlying aquifer or otherwise manifests itself through springs or seeps. Once karst is contaminated, the damage cannot be remediated except by the flushing action of time.


    Major aquifers in other states are fed by karst, and regulations for industry are stringent to avoid contamination. Industrial leakage is not tolerated. Such should have been the case here. Operating this facility "as is, where is" is potentially dangerous to any and all who are downstream.

    TED BROWN


    Mena

  • 15 Mar 2018 6:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For that stinkin’ bill


    I’d like to propose a rider to the bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Wardlaw and Sen. Gary Stubblefield that would limit public comment on environmental permits on large-scale hog farms like the one C&H Hog Farms is operating in the Buffalo River watershed.


    That rider would state that the next two hog farms permitted with open-air lagoons be placed as close to their homes as possible, preferably downwind. Additional permits would be issued to any legislator who votes for this stink of a bill.


    CHARLIE HUGHES

    Fayetteville

  • 15 Mar 2018 6:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Animal farm bills advance at state Capitol

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: March 15, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAOnline



    Thomas Metthe Credit: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
    State Sen. Joyce Elliott gestures Wednesday that she would like to speak against Senate Bill 8, a measure to amend a state law concerning modification and review of permits issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. 



    The Arkansas House and Senate on Wednesday approved their versions of bills that would ensure limitations on what the public can say and when on existing state animal-farm permits.


    Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 1007 passed their respective chambers -- SB8 by 21-7 and HB1007 by 73-6. Four members of the Senate did not vote, while in the House, seven did not vote and 13 voted present. Today is expected to be the last day of a special legislative session dealing with a limited agenda set by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.


    The companion bills, which will go to the opposite chambers today for their next vote, stipulate that "liquid animal waste management system" permits, issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, can be subject only to public comments about proposed modifications at the time they are proposed. Further, the permit holder would not be subject to review or an appeal from a third party over issues dealing with the location of the farm if those issues were not raised during the review phase of the original permit application.


    The bills were spurred by fears in the agriculture community after the Department of Environmental Quality denied a new permit to C&H Hog Farms near the Buffalo National River in Mount Judea. Lawmakers said farmers were concerned that their permits could be challenged now for any reason that may be raised in a public comment period or another review.


    Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, the sponsor of HB1007, has stated repeatedly that the bill would not affect C&H Hog Farms because C&H is not an existing state permit holder.


    Opponents of the farm have questioned whether the language in the bill is specific enough to ensure that is true and have contended that they would want to be able to comment on existing permits if pertinent environmental issues were to emerge.

    Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, voted against the bill and asked during discussion on the Senate floor whether the bill's language would prevent a third party from challenging a permit holder once they discovered a problem at the permit holder's facility that perhaps the Department of Environmental Quality refused to pursue.


    "I think what Sen. Elliott just outlined is a possible future occurrence," said Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock.


    Sanders voted against the bill, he said, out of concern for what passing it could mean for future legislation.


    "My concern is that while authors of bill and testimony said the bill doesn't really accomplish much, I think it does establish the precedent of rolling back third-party appeal rights, which I don't think is a precedent the Legislature ought to set," Sanders said.


    Sanders was the lone dissenting voice vote at an earlier Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee meeting that advanced the Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch.


    Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives passed its version of the bill.

    Rep. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, said he had gotten an email Wednesday morning from someone asking why lawmakers couldn't just add language in the bill that would ensure it would only affect existing or prospective hog farms.

    "You don't have to, Rep. Hendren," Wardlaw said.


    C&H would not be affected "because C&H Hog Farm does not hold a Regulation 5 permit," he said.


    Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, said she was getting emails similar to the one Hendren received and asked why the bill was needed now.


    Existing farms need reassurance, Wardlaw said.

    "They need this clarified," he said.

    Both Hendren and Petty voted against the bill.


    Before the House vote, the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee approved on a voice vote Senate Bill 8.


    Sanders, like other lawmakers Tuesday, asked repeatedly why the bill was needed if supporters said it didn't actually change department practices.


    Wardlaw repeatedly stated that the bill would ease fears among farmers and put a current practice by the Department of Environmental Quality in more precise words in the Arkansas Code. But it would not change anything, he said.


    Stubblefield, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said that without the bill, permit holders could be sued.

  • 15 Mar 2018 1:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Listen to the story here: Arkansas Public Media


    Bill To Limit Challenges To Hog Farms Awaits Final Vote

    By SARAH WHITES-KODITSCHEK/ ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA 

     MAR 15, 2018


    A bill is up for vote by the general assembly  that would protect hog farmers from lawsuits for certain environmental issues once their waste permits are approved. 

    The legislation was approved by the Arkansas General Assembly today, and it's meant to reassure hog farmers as well as the banks who lend them money.

    The legislation limits the public comment period to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s (ADEQ) permitting process. It would affect almost 200 hog farmers in the state. 

    Co-sponsor Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) says it’s meant to block future challenges once permits are given. 

    “This bill simply says you cannot come back three, four, five years later, ten years later, and bring up that comment and take that farmer to court because of a comment that was made during that window of opportunity, early on, when it should have been taken care of then," he said. 

    "And like I said before, these farms will still be under the purview and oversight of ADEQ if anything changes.” 

    A previous version of the legislation had singled out protections for the Buffalo National River area’s C&H hog farm, which was denied a new permit last year for not completing a study on groundwater flow. 

    Environmentalists like Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, are concerned that the legislation could still be employed in support of C&H, which the alliance believes pollutes the venerated river. 

    He says the alliance is involved in an administrative appeal of the farm’s permit, and the legislation could be used to change the outcome of that process. 

    “Attorneys are involved, and as you very well know, attorneys will take any opportunity to take advantage of vague language. So we asked for a little more specificity, and it would have been very simple. They could have said that it was not retroactive or that it was prescriptive only." 

    The bill’s sponsors say it has nothing to do with C&H and will not be used to support its appeal or future operation. 

    *Editor's note: A previous version of this story said the bill was headed to the governor's desk but it still awaits final legislative approval. 

    This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media. What's that? APM is a nonprofit journalism project for all of Arkansas and a collaboration among public media in the state. We're funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK. And, we hope, from you! You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media's reporting at arkansaspublicmedia.org. Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.


  • 15 Mar 2018 6:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Listen to KUAF 


    Arkansas Legislature Relaxing State Animal Waste Agri Permitting

    By JACQUELINE FROELICH  MAR 15, 2018


    The fate of C&H Hog Farms, a controversial industrial swine breeding facility federally permitted five years ago to operate six miles upstream of the Buffalo National River, was at the center of an extraordinary Arkansas legislative special session this week. The Arkansas General Assembly approved a bill that would protect hog farmers from lawsuits for certain environmental issues once their waste permits are approved. The legislation is meant to reassure hog farmers, as well as the banks that lend them money. It also limits the public comment period for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's permitting process. Supporters say the bill is meant to block future challenges once permits are given and will not be used to support C&H Hog Farms' future operations, but opponents, who believe the hog farm pollutes the Buffalo River, say they are not buying it.


  • 14 Mar 2018 1:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Listen here: KOLR 10 TV


    Hog Farm Controversy Amid New Bill 

    By: Chrystal Blair

    March 14, 2018


    LITTLEROCK, Ark.-- The Arkansas legislature approved a different version of a proposed bill, limiting public comments regarding state animal farm permits. 

    Some opponents of the controversial C & H Hog Farm in Mount Judea are concerned it provides the farm a loophole to continue operations. The farm lost their permit over concerns the nearby Buffalo River could become contaminated.    

    It's the wording in the new bill that's causing a stir. Under the bill, public comments about animal farm permits would only be allowed for 30 days after a farmer receives a permit. 

    The sponsor of the bill, Arkansas State Representative Jeff Wardlaw(R), says the idea is to ease the minds of farmers and lenders who after watching the C & H story, fear that public comments could cost them their permits too.  

    The initial version of the bill included a clause that Gordon Watkins, President of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, believes was about an ulterior motive.

    "The previous version that we saw of this bill was an obvious attempt to craft legislation that would specifically apply to C & H Hog Farm," Watkins said.

    That clause was eliminated -- and although Watkins is generally pleased with the new bill, he says the wording in the bill refers to state permits or liquid animal waste management systems -- and that's where he says things can get tricky.   

    "In Arkansas, there are two types of permits that cover those types of systems -- being 'Regulation Six' permits to discharge and 'Regulation Five', no discharge permits." 

    C & H operates under a Regulation Six permit.

    "We were concerned because it did not specify what kind of permit would be addressed, that this could be interpreted to apply to C & H Hog Farm permit."

    Watkins says legislators reassured him this wording was not about C & H. 

    "The legislators pointed out that 'Regulation 6' is actually a federal permit, that it's an EPA permit - and that's correct. 'Regulation Six' animal permits in Arkansas are EPA permits, but they're being administered by the state."

    But Watkins still believes the lines could become blurred.

    "So even though the language is federal language it's being administered by the state. So it could be argued, that they are still state permits."

    He's also concerned about the 30-day public comment limitation. 

    "I do have some concerns that the way this bill is worded, it prevents any future challenges of a permit."

    In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said they have no objections to the bill. 

    C & H has appealed their permit denial. They're expected back in court August 6, on an appeal.


  • 14 Mar 2018 8:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MIKE MASTERSON: Legally allowed

    Endless leakage

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: March 13, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    As C&H Hog Farms appeals the denial of a new, revised permit in the Buffalo National River watershed, the state approved that swine factory's two lagoons to continue leaking up to 5,000 gallons of untreated waste a day under terms of its expired general permit.


    A state-contracted agricultural research team has made a limited stab at trying to measure how much of the toxic stuff could be seeping by digging two catchment trenches below these ponds.


    Five thousand gallons represents 10 times the amount of daily leakage recommended by a guidance document known as the "10-State Standard." Because so many leaking gallons are permitted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough), these lagoons in worst case might already have leaked more than 9 million gallons into the karst that underlies and surrounds the factory at Mount Judea. Imagine what 10 years could offer.


    Such enormous seepage is permissable as long as the factory operates on its expired general permit. Although C&H was denied the Regulation 5 "No Discharge" permit, the leaking obviously would have continued regardless.


    These facts should give every Arkansan who loves this river serious concerns, particularly as I'm told our Legislature this week is set to introduce a controversial bill in special session favorable to C&H while politically diminishing the Department of Environmental Quality's role.


    More fact: Scientific study and drilling have shown subsurface fractures and large voids exist around the lagoons and suggest the bottoms of the lagoons lie within feet of "perched groundwater tables." This sustained release of untreated waste does not include the waste drawn from those ponds and sprayed across fields along or near Big Creek, a major Buffalo tributary.


    Between the spray fields and permissable lagoon leakage I can't imagine how much waste after five years likely already has collected in the cracks, caves and underground springs below and around this misplaced factory.


    It all follows the paths of least resistance to head downhill eventually into the Buffalo six miles away, hydrologists and geologists have predicted. Some call this mess a "creeping catastrophe," since it would take untold years for rainfalls to flush away.


    Dr. John Van Brahana, a respected geoscientist and national expert in karst hydrology, said subterranean dye tests his team of volunteers has performed since 2013 around the C&H property (he's not allowed on theirs) found dye moving rapidly, even beneath mountains, and turning up downstream in the Buffalo 12 miles away.

    This is science and fact rather than political blather, special-interest spin or rabid "environmentalism."


    A board member for the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance explains our state's lenient leakage policy this way: "Arkansas lacks a numerical standard regarding pond manure leakage. So the rules defaulted to what the National Resources Conservation Service and its Agricultural Waste Management Field handbook recommends. That default is a daily maximum of 5,000 gallons per acre. In contrast, the widely used guidance document known as the 10-State Standard, regularly referred to as a guide for establishing leakage restrictions for sewage, provides a recommended safe standard of just 500 gallons each day.


    "That Arkansas defaults to an allowance 10 times the leakage of that standard is excessive under any circumstances. To steadily allow as much as 5,000 gallons in a geologically sensitive karst environment such as our country's first national river is nothing less than irresponsible."


    I call it beyond reckless, especially when the Department of Environmental Quality never insisted upon one analysis from its staff geologists of this porous location before quickly and quietly issuing the general permit in 2012. A retired geologist from that agency rightly referred to that critical omission as "malfeasance."


    C&H's lagoon 1 is listed at 0.4788 acres. Number 2 is 0.7865, for a total of 1.27 pond acres. Five thousand gallons of daily leakage per acre would mean the uppermost limit allowed by default is actually 6,300 gallons.


    The alliance board member said an engineer's calculations determined both ponds leak at a rate of 4,847 gallons daily. But who knows for sure?


    M.D. Smolen, a proven expert in water quality studies, put it this way in a report dated August 2015: "The ADEQ permit provides minimal protection from storage pond leakage ... through the clay liner," which he said was designed based on only one compaction analysis and no permeability testing of final liner construction.


    "The high shrink-swell potential of the liner materials have a tendency to crack when allowed to dry, increasing the potential for leakage during the cycle of filling and emptying the ponds," he continued. "An EPA inspection conducted April 15-17, 2014, found that the upper edge of the clay liner [was] protected by erosion control fabric, but did not indicate any effort to prevent liner cracking."


    To my knowledge, other than self-reporting and those dual trenches, the amount of waste seeping from the C&H lagoons remains routinely unchecked. That's beyond unacceptable.

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

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

    Editorial on 03/13/2018

  • 14 Mar 2018 7:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hog-farm permit bill moves to full Arkansas House

    Measure restricts public comments

    By Emily Walkenhorst and M

    Posted: March 14, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.




    An Arkansas House committee approved with no dissent Tuesday a bill that would ensure limitations to what the public can comment on regarding state animal-farm permits that have already been issued.


    The General Assembly began a special session Tuesday with six committee meetings taking up the issues on Gov. Asa Hutchinson's agenda, such as animal-farm permits, pharmacy benefit managers, college savings plans and jury waivers. Only House committees met and held votes Tuesday. Senate bill sponsors instead made presentations to the full Senate, with no votes taking place. Senate committees are scheduled to consider bills today. 


    The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee approved on a voice vote with no dissent House Bill 1007, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage.


     HB1007, which now will be considered by the full House, states that animal farms in good standing that apply for permit modifications cannot have anything more than the modifications commented on. The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee will consider the Senate version of the bill at 9 a.m. today.


    Wardlaw said the bill only puts in writing what the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality already practices. He said it would not affect C&H Hog Farms, to which the department recently denied another permit. The farm is located on a creek that empties into the Buffalo National River.


    "It's got a lot of bad rumors out there," Wardlaw said of the bill. "This bill does nothing to help or harm C&H Hog Farms at all."


    The bill could not affect the hog farm because the hog farm doesn't have a liquid-animal-waste system permit issued under Regulation 5, which is a state permitting program.


    Hog farm opponents told lawmakers they were concerned the bill was not written clearly enough to ensure that C&H could not be affected. The bill did not specify that it would only apply to Regulation 5 permits. C&H had a Regulation 6 permit, which is state-run permitting program that implements federal requirements. The farm still operates under that expired permit while the farmers appeal their permit denial.


    "This language says only an 'existing permit,'" said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. "This does not distinguish between Regulation 5 and Regulation 6."


    Inserting a phrase that states it only applies to Regulation 5 farms or future farms would address his group's concerns, he said.


    When asked by a reporter why he would not include language specifying Regulation 5 in the bill, Wardlaw said, "I don't think you need it."


    Other representatives said they thought Regulation 6 would not qualify as a "state permit" but rather a federal one.


    The bill applies to liquid-animal-waste system permits, which are typically hog farms. Poultry farms generally employ dry-litter-waste systems and don't require permits. Cattle farms require them only when the cows are confined, which they typically aren't.


    Rep. Frederick Love, D-Little Rock, asked several times why the bill was needed.

    Wardlaw said the Department of Environmental Quality's denial of C&H's permit application spurred the legislation because it caused distress to "financial institutions" that lend to animal farms. They were concerned that a farm, after receiving a permit, could be shut down because of public comments, and they wouldn't get their money back, he said.


    Banks and farmers don't feel like they had the security they once had, said Michael Grappe, director of special projects at the Department of Environmental Quality.

    "This bill simply provides them the protection they need so they can continue to do the business of farming in this state," he said.


    When asked by a reporter which financial institutions had approached legislators with concern about lending to animal farms, Wardlaw said he would not disclose that.

    Shortly after the House committee approved the bill, Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, presented the same bill before the full Senate as Senate Bill 8.

    "This is not exactly what we were working towards ... but that's what it came down to," he said.


    Stubblefield said he wished the bill had been tailored to help C&H but that the final version was good enough because it would still help farmers. In response to a question from Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, about why the bill was needed, he said he didn't "even like the way the bill is written."


    At midday Tuesday the governor, who called the Legislature into the special session, spoke to the Political Animals Club in Little Rock. Hutchinson said that Wardlaw's legislation is narrower than draft legislation circulated before the session that had some C&H opponents worried that it would keep C&H open.


    "What happened was that a lot of the farmers in the community got concerned that, 'Well, if the C&H hog farm is going to be denied continuation of their permit, then somehow it is going to impact my right to farm,'" Hutchinson said. The bill should ease those farmers' fears, he said.


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denied C&H Hog Farms' permit application in January after public comments raised concerns about the farmers not following proper protocol in their waste-application process. The farmers, because of the location of the farm, should have submitted an emergency action plan and a groundwater flow direction study.


    C&H, which began operating in May 2013, is located on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek flows in the Buffalo National River. The recreational river was visited by 1.5 million people last year. The farm is allowed to house up to 4,000 piglets and 2,503 sows and is considered a "large" concentrated animal feeding operation under federal standards. It's the only facility of that size in the Buffalo River's watershed, which has caused concern among some Newton County residents, the tourism industry, river visitors and conservationists.


    Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, said he decided to have sponsoring senators first explain their bills on the Senate floor.


    "I thought it would be valuable for the members to come in and go ahead and start having the debate on some of these bills, and getting the bills in front of all the members could also allow public consumption of the bills to take place," Dismang said.


    On the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, decided to send the bills to House committees for consideration-- which is the usual practice -- because Gillam indicated that representatives "were comfortable going through the committee process," said House spokesman Cecillea Pond-Mayo.


    Both Dismang and Gillam said Tuesday they expect the session to end Thursday.

    Also on Tuesday, the House Education Committee gave unanimous consent to a bill dealing with how siblings are counted when considering a school district's limit on the annual number of school-choice transfers.


    The sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, said legislation passed in 2015 regarding the caps on school-choice transfers had erroneously counted all siblings as one student in an effort to prevent families from having to send their children to separate schools.


    That caused some schools to go way over their limit on transfers, Lowery said. Instead, his bill, House Bill 1009, only considers siblings together as one student if that group of siblings would otherwise set the district over its transfer limit.

    No one spoke against or objected to the bill, which now goes to the House for full consideration.

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