Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

News


  • 28 Mar 2017 8:14 AM | Anonymous

    The state of Arkansas is accepting through April 6 public comments regarding a new permit for an industrial hog farm located upstream of Buffalo National River.

    The C&H Hog Farms, Inc., operation at Mount Judea is located along Big Creek about six miles upstream of the national river. Under a contract with Cargill, Inc., an international agricultural and food conglomerate, C&H confines approximately 6,500 pigs at a time, making the operation the first of its size and scale in the Buffalo River watershed.

    Though it has been operating since 2013 under a general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, the company is now seeking a change in its permit to one that presumes there will be no waste discharges from the property.

    The hog farm is located in a region of karst geology, which is is composed of easily dissolved rocks, such as limestone and dolomite. Via sinkholes and underground caves in the geology, groundwater can flow miles very quickly. In the National Park System, karst geology is perhaps mostly visibly connected to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, but it can also be found along the Buffalo National River and at Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri.

    Keeping pollutants out of this geology is particularly important for the Buffalo National River, as its boundaries encompass just 11 percent of the Buffalo River watershed. The C&H Hog Farms' "concentrated animal feeding operation," or CAFO, generates an "estimated nitrogen output ... equivalent to a human population of 7,000, and the phosphorus output is equivalent to 23,000 humans, in a watershed with a total human population of approximately 17,000."

    So far, according to the National Parks Conservation Association, more than 14,000 comments have been submitted to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality asking that the new permit be denied.

    ADEQ’s contact person for submitting written comments, requesting information regarding the draft permit, or obtaining a copy of the permit and the Statement of Basis is Katherine McWilliams, at 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, Arkansas 72118-5317,  501-682-0650, or at Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us.  

    In 2012, the state granted C&H a permit for this facility without allowing adequate public input or consultation from the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or local communities. The state permit expired on October 31, 2016. Now, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the ADEQ "have an opportunity to protect America’s first national river by denying the company’s application for a permit 5264-W, which seeks to allow C&H to continue spreading hog waste in this fragile ecosystem," NPCA said.

    The feedlot has generated a lot of controversy among environmental groups because of the potential threat it poses to the Buffalo National River. Last fall, water testing in Big Creek downstream of C&H by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team found higher levels of nitrate, total nitrogen, total coliform bacteria, chloride, specific conductance, alkalinity, and total dissolved solids than water samples taken upstream of the farm.

    While state testing in 2014 found state limits for E. coli were exceeded both upstream and downstream of the farm, in 2015, higher levels were detected only in the upstream samples.

    A lengthy report by the director of the U.S. Geological Survey's Wyoming Water Science Center on these tests and water quality impacts to the national river offered nearly a dozen recommendations, including one for dye tracing studies around the pig feedlot in a bid to determine how surface water enters the surrounding karst topography and show where it exits.

    “This is our last chance to protect the Buffalo National River, our country’s first national river and a beloved national park, which belongs to all Americans. Allowing C&H to continue spreading millions of gallons of waste in the Buffalo’s watershed could do irreparable damage to the regional tourism economy and threatens local drinking water,” said Emily Jones, NPCA's senior program manager for the Southeast Region. “Along with thousands of our members and supporters in Arkansas and across the country, NPCA urges Governor Hutchinson to protect this precious resource and keep the Buffalo safe for people to swim, fish, and float.”

    The Buffalo National River offers recreational opportunities along 135 miles of free-flowing river, and is a major economic driver for the region. The river welcomed more than 1.7 million visitors in 2016, pumping millions of dollars into nearby communities and supporting local jobs.

  • 28 Mar 2017 6:58 AM | Anonymous

    MIKE MASTERSON: ‘Clearly malfeasant’

    Geologist speaks

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: March 28, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    A former 30-year veteran of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) has written an explosive letter claiming malfeasance and flawed findings, saying that agency inexplicably failed to consult its own geologists before issuing the original permit to C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea.

    Gerald Delevan, previously a geology supervisor at the department, sent a lengthy letter (edited portions below) to Jamal Solaimanian, engineering supervisor of the agency's Water Division, which listed numerous objections to support his assertions.

    The review and approval of the initial application "to allow the land application and disposal of a large volume of untreated hog waste in the Big Creek watershed under a General Permit ... was at best poorly conceived and poorly executed by Water Division staff," Develan wrote.

    To his knowledge, he said, the initial application was never reviewed by any geologist throughout the agency before the permit was issued.

    Delevan said had the geologists been allowed to review the application, it's highly unlikely any of them would have signed off on the proposed permit without requesting geologic data about the locations and proposed land application sites.

    "I believe the permit review process conducted by the Water Division engineers ... was severely flawed," Delevan wrote, "as it failed to adequately consider several issues, the first being the potential impact of locating this hog farm and its associated land application sites on the shallow karstic limestone geology beneath the site" prior to issuing the permit.

    "In addition, Water Division engineers were clearly malfeasant in their review of the ... application, as they failed to consider missing key data needed to properly and adequately evaluate the potential environmental impact of this ... operation on the local environment."

    Delevan said the known presence of karst beneath the proposed locations along or around Big Creek, a major Buffalo tributary, should have raised a major "Red Flag."

    It's not as if this highly trained veteran geologist didn't fully understand the process, having participated in the review of all types of permits, writing their requirements, and responding to public comments. He also understands the nature of the fragile subsurface underlying this grossly misplaced swine factory. "The limestone geology ... is known to be highly fractured, with numerous voids and conduits which move surface water and ground water rapidly through a vast system of interconnected fractures, solution channel and springs just inches below the soil profile."

    The C&H Environmental Assessment as part of the permit application barely mentions or discusses subsurface geology beneath the sites, he added, "or discuss any possible impacts hog farm operations may or may not have on shallow local ground water supplies present beneath the farm and land application sites. The [assessment] also failed to discuss any potential impacts to surface water quality or ground water quality from waste infiltration or waste water runoff ...

    "It is clear, Water Division engineers and [Environmental Quality] senior staff, by overlooking these omissions ... and by not requesting additional information be provided by the applicant in regard to these omissions, [the Department of Environmental Quality] failed to adequately review the C&H application as submitted."

    Therefore, Delevan wrote, his former employer should not have issued the final permit to C&H until the deficiencies were addressed. "It is also my opinion [the department] was also malfeasant by not having [a department] registered professional geologist or any other geologist from any agency ... review and comment ... prior to its approval and issuance."

    Delevan wrote that the agency has options. "It is hoped the agency will do the right thing and step back from seemingly stumbling blindly along ... and take the time to evaluate all of the data collected by all of the researchers and scientists, prior to issuing the final permit to C&H.

    "Hopefully," he continued, "this approach would allow ... staff conducting the permit review to make a better informed decision regarding whether or not the proposed permit modification application for C&H Hog Farms should be approved and issued by [the department].

    "If the data indicates the ongoing farming operation at C&H is already adversely impacting the water quality in Big Creek, then [the farm] is in violation of the Arkansas Air and Water Pollution Control Act and [its] current permit. If this is the case, the proposed permit modification ... should, in my opinion, be denied."

    Delevan's opinion is that granting the permit "will ultimately lead to the slow, long-term, inevitable degradation of overall water quality" in surface and groundwater supplies.

    Delevan said he sent a copy of his letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is receiving plenty of credible forewarning of what many believe is a catastrophe waiting to happen on his watch. See Delevan's full letter at tinyurl.com/m4tu4sq.

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

    Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

  • 25 Mar 2017 7:46 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansasonline


    More JBS charges

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: March 25, 2017 at 2:31 a.m.


    The Brazil-based meatpacker that provides and purchases the more than 6,000 swine raised by C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed is in trouble after police say it was caught giving payoffs to inspectors and politicians to allow the sale of spoiled meat.

    As a result of a two-year investigation, the European Commission says it's carefully monitoring the JBS meat corporation and another major meatpacker it alleges were criminally shelling out cash to influence Brazilian officials.

    The corporation's JBS USA subsidiary purchased Cargill Inc.'s U.S. pork business--which includes the Mount Judea hog factory--for $1.45 billion in November 2015. That was about three years after Cargill was pivotal in launching and supporting the privately owned C&H facility that our state officials so quickly and quietly permitted into our sacred Buffalo watershed.

    In Brazil, a judge accused the Ministry of Agriculture of selecting inspectors who approved substandard meat for market. A two-year police investigation alleges JBS and another major meatpacker in that country also channeled bribes to two of Brazil's major political parties, including that of the Brazilian president. News accounts say dozens of arrest warrants have been issued.

    One Brazilian investigator said during a new conference that the meatpackers were using chemicals to improve the appearance and smell of expired meats, and that good meat supposedly was mixed with bad, and water and a gluten-free flour also added as a disguise.

    The investigation also reportedly revealed that schoolchildren in southern Brazil were being fed "outdated, rotten and many times cancerous" meats to benefit the financial interests of a "crime gang."

    As if these allegations weren't bad enough, in 2016 the JBS chairman and eight other company officials were charged with financial crimes involving loans.

    It's troublesome to me that the international corporate contractors behind our state's large swine factory are in trouble back home for alleged financial crimes and bribes to allow rotten meat into markets and schools. Officials within the European Union were inflamed enough by the charges to halt meat exports from JBS and another Brazilian company called BRF.

    While there's no connection between what happens in Brazil and the factory at Mount Judea, this company's reported practices naturally catch my attention and that of others across Arkansas.

  • 20 Mar 2017 8:12 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansasonline


    Environmental notebook

    by Emily Walkenhorst

    Comment extended on large hog farm

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has extended the public comment period on the draft operating permit for C&H Hog Farms for 20 days.

    The department will now accept comments through 4:30 p.m. April 6, according to a notice published by the department. The comment period was originally scheduled to end last Friday.

    The department had received requests to extend the comment period.

    C&H Hog Farms Inc., near Mount Judea in Newton County, sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it converges with the Buffalo National River. It is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed, which has typically been home to several small hog farms, and is currently permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.

    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 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 will be applied over certain sites as fertilizer.


  • 14 Mar 2017 10:34 AM | Anonymous

    Letter to the Editor in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


    Close down hog farm


    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (buffaloriveralliance.org) lists six reasons why the C&H Hog Farms permit was improperly approved by the Department of Environmental Quality and should be denied.

    Additionally, I am concerned about community. It is well-documented that exposure to hog waste increases asthma and other health issues, especially in children. Yet permits allow this waste from C&H to be spread in close proximity to a school.

    The Buffalo National River provides jobs and income. When an inevitable disaster like a flood or leaking sewage ponds above porous karst causes water pollution and our Buffalo National River loses its value as a tourist attraction, many lives will be adversely affected. Even if hog waste never enters the stream, the odor of the manure throughout the region will deter tourist dollars as well as Arkansans' enjoyment of this extraordinary region.

    Some people feel that everyone should have a right to do whatever they like with land they own. I think this right does not remain when a private landowner's business has such a potentially devastating effect on their neighbor's ability to earn a living and enjoy a healthy life. Very few local jobs are created by C&H, contrasting with hundreds of jobs in the tourist industry surrounding the Buffalo.

    I have sent these comments to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and to the Department of Environmental Quality. (Comment period closes March 17, and you can comment too by emailing Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us, using Permit #5264-W in the subject line.) I hope they will use this information to facilitate the closing of C&H.

    JAN M. VANSCHUYVER


  • 14 Mar 2017 8:41 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansasonline


     Missing deadline?

    Report on Buffalo

    By Mike Masterson 

    The Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) has set what strikes me as an arbitrary, even premature, deadline of March 17 to end public comment about granting a new and revised operating permit for C&H Hog Farms, operating in our fragile Buffalo National River watershed.

    Oddly enough, the date comes a week shy of our National Park Service providing a pertinent document to what I expect will be the Department of Environmental Quality's rubber-stamped final decision that officially approves the new C&H permit. No surprise there, considering the agency so quickly and quietly approved C&H's initial permit in 2012 without hearing much, if any, relevant public comment.

    The document in question represents the report on what might prove to be a highly relevant 2016 National Park Service-sponsored study by hydrologist Dave Mott.

    Mott was working under contract with the Park Service to complete his report assessing the permitted concentrated animal feeding operation near the Buffalo National River.


    Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, told me his group and others already tried without success to review Mott's report.

    "The findings have a direct bearing on the C&H permit and should be part of the record during this crucial comment period," he said. "But ... the Buffalo National River folks, and/or their higher ups, apparently have embargoed the document."

    Watkins said he and the alliance believe Mott's findings should have been made public even before the Department of Environmental Quality's designated period for public comments.

    "Several folks, including us, have submitted FOIA requests for the report. We were told it will be provided by March 24."

    I join those in hoping the National Park Service bureaucracy will submit Mott's significant report during the state's officially designated opportunity for public input.


    Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 03/14/2017

  • 10 Mar 2017 8:42 AM | Anonymous

    Help our Buffalo 


    Mike Masterson - March 7th 2017


    NWAOnline


    Arkansans seeking a way to support the struggle to keep our beloved Buffalo National River from the significant threat of contamination have two choices this month to join the growing crusade and enjoy some great entertainment.

    A musical benefit and birthday bash honoring the Buffalo is set for 7 p.m. Sunday at George's Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots will lead the musical celebration.

    Four days later, March 16, at 7 p.m. in the Argenta Community Theater in North Little Rock, those in central Arkansas can enjoy songwriters and musicians entertaining in the second "Sing Out for the Buffalo."

    Both events will help the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance continue its legal fight to preserve the quality of water flowing in the Buffalo, a rare jewel that attracts well over a million visitors each year.

    George's on Fayetteville's Dickson Street is fast becoming an informal headquarters for Arkansans committed to protecting the country's first national river. This event is the alliance's way of celebrating the river's 45 years as a national river. A small group of friends and sponsors are underwriting the party to sharpen public focus on what a magnificent national treasure this river is for our relatively small state.

    "We love our Buffalo and appreciate her for all she provides us," said Rick Hinterthuer, a birthday bash sponsor. "We also realize how many ordinary and extraordinary citizens stood tall and worked long hours to realize their vision for protecting her for future generations."

    While life is filled with events and people we take for granted, the Buffalo National River isn't one of those for most Arkansans who appreciate its wonder and grandeur.

    This seemingly endless legal fight to protect our national river from our own state's inabilities has been ongoing since the stream was designated as such. The Watershed Alliance slogan "Save the Buffalo ... Again!" could justifiably be changed to "... Again and Again!"

    Those who can't join the fun on either evening can still help make a difference by sending a contribution to the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, P.O. Box 101, Jasper, Ark. 72641 (or at buffaloriveralliance.org). I mailed mine today.


  • 08 Mar 2017 8:55 AM | Anonymous

    Meeting on hog farm permit draws 250

    0

    By Bill Bowden


    Arkansas Online


    JASPER -- A crowd of about 250 people packed the Jasper High School auditorium Tuesday night for a public meeting about whether the state of Arkansas should issue a new permit to a large, controversial hog farm near the Buffalo National River.

    Based on 25 oral comments, the crowd was fairly evenly split for and against a permit that would allow C&H Hog Farms to continue its Mount Judea operations, which began in 2013.

    "If they were going to stop this farm, they should have stopped it before they built it," said Sharon Pierce of Mount Judea. "People knew about it."


    That drew a howl from opponents in the crowd, who say they were blindsided by the farm's initial permit approval in 2012.

    Opponents say the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's public notice process in 2012 prevented people from learning about the application and commenting on it.

    In 2012, public notice of C&H's application was published only on the department's website and not in a local newspaper, as with most permits. The department approved the farm's first operating permit after receiving no public comments.

    Regulations surrounding public notice were later modified to include publication in a local newspaper and notification of certain local officials.

    Activists have been outraged that such a large hog farm was ever permitted near the Buffalo National River, which is a national park that attracted 1.79 million visitors in 2016, the highest ever.

    Several people at the meeting Tuesday said the area's karst geology allows liquid hog fertilizer that is spread on fields to seep into water underground and potentially contaminate tributaries of the Buffalo River.

    Those in favor of the permit said there's no scientific evidence that hog waste being spread on nearby land is causing any problems.

    "This is the most monitored, most watched most studied farm in the state of Arkansas," said Bob Shofner of Centerton. "They are doing things correctly. I keep asking when enough is enough."

    But several opponents said C&H is a factory, not a farm, and some were hostile toward the department for issuing the permit in the first place.

    "The ADEQ issues permits and maintains regulations but they are not doing their job," said Phyllis Head of Fayetteville. "I am so sick and tired of the doublespeak we get every time we talk about this."

    Marti Olesen of Ponca asked what would happen if a tornado like the one that hit Parthenon late Monday night hit the hog farm instead.

    "If the tornado hit Mount Judea instead, would C&H Hog Farms be able to finance the cleanup?" she asked. "Would the rest of the people in Arkansas be forced to take on that burden?"

    Kathy Downs of Jasper said she's not against farmers, but she said the department must protect the environment.

    "I hope and pray that all farming families will flourish in Arkansas and I hope that the Buffalo River will flourish," she told the crowd. "I want to have both. I want you to understand that the people up here speaking against this permit are not against farming families.

    "But I'm asking you to please deny this permit because I want you to do your job as ADEQ and protect our environment, which is pretty fragile here."

    After the meeting, Jason Henson, the owner of C&H Hog Farms, said he's doing his best to follow the rules.

    "What more can we do?" he said. "We're following every regulation to a tee."

    The department gave preliminary approval of the facility's permit application on Feb. 15, pending a 30-day public comment period, which will end at 4:30 p.m. March 17. So far, they've received hundreds of comments.

    C&H Hog Farms is located on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it converges with the Buffalo National River. C&H is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed and is currently permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.

    C&H applied April 7 for a new permit under Regulation 5, the state's no-discharge permit program, after the department canceled the type of "general permit" the facility previously had.

    Provisions of the proposed new permit are not much different, the department has said.

    The new permit further clarifies that discharge from the facility is not allowed outside of a major flood event, defined as a 24-hour, 25-year event. The hog manure ponds will still be required to leave room at the top to prevent overflow in the event of rain. And while C&H has altered the number of hogs it intends to keep on-site, officials don't expect a significant difference in the amount of waste they will produce.

    The new permit indicates that 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 estimates that the two waste-holding ponds would contain up to 2,337,074 gallons of hog manure. Additional waste and wastewater will be applied over certain sites as fertilizer.

    The controversy over C&H has led to changes in department regulations, dozens of hours of public hearings, hundreds of public comments and hundreds of thousands of dollars in state-funded research on the facility's impact on its surroundings in the Buffalo River watershed.

    A drilling project conducted last fall found no evidence of a hog manure pond leaking. Researchers working with C&H opponents say dye tracing has indicated how water can flow from near the farm into the river.

    C&H Hog Farms' operating permit expired Oct. 31, but the owners had applied for a new permit under a different state regulation last April. C&H was allowed to continue operations while its permit application was pending.

    Metro on 03/08/2017

  • 07 Mar 2017 1:13 PM | Anonymous

    Fran Alexander: Defy, deny, delay

    Is this the Department of Environmental Quality’s motto?



    When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and no volunteer band of citizens fighting for a clean environment has worked harder, longer or more incisively than those trying to save the country's first national river, the Buffalo River of Arkansas. Certainly few activists have had a tougher battle on their hands. However, it's not been Mother Nature's whims and winds that continue to consume thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars, but a clash between fellow humans with different values and priorities.

    In essence almost all environmental battles boil down to an equation of how much is too much degradation before tipping points are exceeded, leading to devastation of health, property or even the security of the nation. One environmental question for our so-called leaders, which we must personalize and demand an answer to, is, "How dirty do you want the water you drink to be?" In the case of the Buffalo, the question expands to how much pig poop do you want to paddle through or swim and fish in?

    When our Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality tells us just how much pollution they are allowing to drain into that river, we Arkies can decide for ourselves if that's more than we'll tolerate and so can the river's out-of-state visitors. The National Park Service reported in 2011 that 1,160,802 people spent $38,232,000 in area communities surrounding the river, which supported some 582 jobs. You can bet all those millions that these folks didn't come to Arkansas to play in manure-tainted water.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and other groups have done the civic work to bring this issue to the people of Arkansas, where the decision about siting and permitting a confined animal feeding operation, known as a CAFO, belonged in the first place. In the case of the C & H Hog Farms Inc., built above a major tributary of the Buffalo River, the public was denied initial involvement. After years of effort to get public notifications of such permits, tonight at 6 p.m. there will be a hearing in Newton County at the Jasper School Cafetorium, 600 School St., regarding the Department of Environmental Quality's willingness to grant this hog farm a permit (Regulation 5).

    What does this mean? Essentially that this hog farm could be switched from being under a federal review every five years to an Arkansas permit with no expiration date nor any required reviews. In other words, "go forth and pollute forever; we aren't looking." To call this scandalous is mild. To call it criminal is more to the point. And please understand, this permit is very close to being granted with our state government's blessing.

    The pig manure from this hog farm is being spread on hundreds of acres of thin rocky Ozark pastures, which sit atop the eroded limestone (karst) beneath them. It defies logic that water polluted from this waste isn't leaching through this porous Swiss cheese-like underground nor sliding off these hillsides into the watershed. Yet, the Department of Environmental Quality's silence on basic physical and chemical questions regarding this waste, and its interaction with everything and everyone around it, amounts to a denial of reality. And by delaying action to remove this hog operation from the Buffalo River watershed, the state is allowing destruction of this precious national resource and the economic benefit it brings to its people.

    What can you do? First, make your voice heard! Write the governor and complain mightily. Attend this hearing tonight in Jasper, if possible. Before 4:30 p.m. March 17 submit a written comment to Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us or send to the agency's contact person: Katherine McWilliams, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72118-5317, (501) 682-0648. Send a copy to the governor. Hold letter-writing parties. The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance web site has talking points for comments and letters. Write to editors across the state and inform your friends via every media means you have, especially reaching people in other areas who know little about this issue. Attend and give at the fundraisers. The next one is March 12, when "Sunpie" Barnes is playing at George's Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. Those working to save the Buffalo -- again -- face thousands of dollars in legal and expert testimony costs, so please help out.

    The governor and the Department of Environmental Quality need to be told over and over that their decisions about our national river will bring pride or disgrace to the state and to them. Remind them. Then remind them again.

    Commentary on 03/07/2017


  • 05 Mar 2017 10:08 AM | Anonymous

    Permit hearing set for C&H Hog Farms

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: March 5, 2017 at 1:02 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing Tuesday evening on C&H Hog Farms' application for a permit to continue its Mount Judea operations.

    The public hearing is at 6 p.m. at the Jasper School District auditorium in Jasper.

    The department gave preliminary approval of the facility's permit application Feb. 15, pending a public comment period.

    The 30-day comment period ends at 4:30 p.m. March 17.

    C&H Hog Farms Inc., near Mount Judea in Newton County, sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it converges with the Buffalo National River. It is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed and is currently permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.

    C&H applied for a permit under Regulation 5, the state's no-discharge permit program, after the department canceled the type of permit the facility previously had. Provisions of the proposed new permit are not much different, the department has said.

    The new permit further clarifies that discharge from the facility is not allowed outside of a major flood event, defined as a 24-hour, 25-year event. The hog manure ponds will still be required to leave room at the top to prevent overflow in the event of rain. And while C&H has altered the number of hogs it intends to keep on site, officials don't expect a significant difference in the amount of waste they will produce.

    C&H, which has operated since 2013, has been accused of posing a pollution risk to the river because of its size.

    State-funded researchers working at and with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture continue to monitor the farm to see whether it is affecting the river and have so far released no definite finding. A drilling project conducted last fall found no evidence of a hog manure pond leaking. Researchers working with C&H opponents say dye tracing has indicated how water can flow from near the farm into the river.

    The Buffalo National River had 1.79 million visitors in 2016, the highest total ever.

    NW News on 03/05/2017


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