Buffalo River 
Watershed
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  • 19 Jan 2017 9:29 AM | Anonymous

    Erosion, feral hogs pose concern on river

    Governor’s panel goal: Tend Buffalo

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: January 19, 2017 at 3:23 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    Erosion along the banks of the Buffalo National River and problems associated with feral hogs were among the primary concerns voiced this week during the first meeting of the governor-commissioned Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee.

    Members expressed interest Tuesday in protecting the water quality of the river and addressing concerns about erosion along its banks, which leads to sediment in the river.

    "Literally islands are developing in streams," said Kevin Cheri, National Park Service superintendent for the Buffalo River. "So we need to do more research to try and understand the cost of this."

    Committee members who represent other state agencies voiced those agencies' roles and concern for the river and its watershed, noting the river's draw as a tourist destination and its surrounding small towns and farms.

    Nathan Smith, director of the Arkansas Department of Health, said his agency recently started keeping water quality data on the Buffalo relevant to health issues that can arise in recreational waters.

    Arkansas Natural Resources Commission Director Bruce Holland said other states, such as neighboring Oklahoma, don't have the water resources Arkansas does. He said the commission's duty is to protect and preserve that "abundance of water," and he and others noted that damage caused by feral hogs has become a significant problem.

    Wes Ward, director of the Arkansas Agriculture Department, said agriculture is the state's largest industry and is particularly significant to rural areas, such as those that surround the Buffalo River. But, he said, farmers keep telling him they "don't need additional regulations to make their jobs even harder."

    The committee is nonregulatory, and one of its major actions is developing a watershed management plan that is also nonregulatory. The Natural Resources Commission is overseeing the planning process and held a public meeting in Marshall on Dec. 8.

    Tony Ramick, who oversees nonpoint source management for the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, said the next meeting would be March 30 at Carroll Electric in Jasper. Ramick said he expects it will take at least one year to draw up the plan, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is funding the plan, must accept it.

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson commissioned the committee in September in response to concerns that arose after a federally classified large hog farm opened in 2013 in Mount Judea, which is located within the Buffalo River's watershed.

    Outcry about C&H Hog Farms' potential to pollute the river over time has spurred a five-year study on the farm's impact on the river, a five-year ban on medium and large hog farms in the watershed, and another study conducted in September to determine if a hog manure pond was leaking.

    While the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee won't be regulatory, a watershed management plan would help guide development in the watershed and help the state leverage funding for conservation projects.

    The committee approved a charter Tuesday that affirms its goals and membership and heard presentations from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the National Park Service on work being done on the Buffalo River.

    The charter establishes a schedule of quarterly meetings on the third Tuesday of the month, an annual report to Hutchinson starting in January 2018, a website for committee information, and a five-member executive team with two additional ex-officio members. Members include the directors of the departments of Environmental Quality, Health, Parks and Tourism, and Agriculture, as well as the Natural Resources Commission. The directors of the Game and Fish Commission and the Geographic Information Office are ex-officio members.

    Shawn Hodges, a park ranger with the National Park Service at the Buffalo National River, gave a presentation detailing the 32 sites where the park service does sampling on the river and described the park service's desire to do other projects on the river. The park service would like to do more dye tracing to examine how water flows in the watershed underneath karst terrain, as well as more science education for Arkansas residents and partnerships with colleges and state agencies.

    Cheri said his office tries to reach out to people about being better stewards of the river and said most people learn and want to protect the river.

    "Most of the times, the things people do, they're just not aware that they have the potential to affect the river," Cheri said, noting the 100 or so spare tires the park service finds in the river every year during its cleanups.

    "Don't we care enough to do something about that without imposing on the way people live?" he asked.

    Metro on 01/19/2017


  • 18 Jan 2017 1:10 PM | Anonymous

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Panel urges Buffalo's protection

    Committee sets schedule, OKs charter at first meeting

    Posted: January 18, 2017 at 1:03 a.m.
     
    The governor-commissioned Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee met for the first time Tuesday afternoon, voicing its primary interests and concerns for protecting the Buffalo River.
    Members expressed an interest in protecting the water quality of the Buffalo and in addressing concerns about erosion along stream banks that put dirt in the river.
    Kevin Cheri, National Park Service superintendent for the Buffalo National River, said his office gets complaints about too much sediment in the river.
    "Literally islands are developing in streams," he said. "So we need to do more research to try and understand the cost of this."
    Committee members who represent other state agencies voiced those agencies' roles and concern for the river and its watershed, noting the river's draw as a tourist destination and its surrounding small towns and farms.
    Nathan Smith, director of the Arkansas Department of Health, said his agency recently started keeping water quality data on the Buffalo as it pertains to health issues that can arise in recreational waters.
    Arkansas Natural Resources Commission Director Bruce Holland said other states, such as neighboring Oklahoma, don't have the water resources Arkansas does. He said the commission's duty is to protect and preserve that "abundance of water."
    Wes Ward, director of the Arkansas Agriculture Department, said agriculture is the state's largest industry and is particularly significant to rural areas, such as those that surround the Buffalo River. But, he said, farmers keep telling him they "don't need additional regulations to make their jobs even harder."
    The committee is nonregulatory, and one of its major actions is developing a watershed management plan, which is also nonregulatory. The Natural Resources Commission is overseeing the planning process and held a public meeting in Marshall on Dec. 8.
    Tony Ramick, who oversees nonpoint source management for the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, announced Tuesday that the next meeting would be March 30 at Carroll Electric in Jasper. Ramick said he expects the plan to take at least one year to draw up, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is funding the plan, must accept it.
    Gov. Asa Hutchinson commissioned the committee in September in response to concerns that arose after a federally classified large hog farm opened in Mount Judea, located within the Buffalo River's watershed, in 2013. Outcry about C&H Hog Farms' potential to pollute the river over time has spurred a five-year study on the farm's impact on the river, a five-year ban on medium and large hog farms in the watershed, and another study conducted in September to determine if a hog manure pond was leaking.
    While the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee won't be regulatory, a watershed management plan would help guide development in the watershed and help the state leverage funding for conservation projects.
    The committee approved a charter Tuesday that affirms its goals and membership and heard presentations from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the National Park Service on work being done on the Buffalo River.
    The charter establishes a schedule of quarterly meetings on the third Tuesday of the month, an annual report to Hutchinson starting in January 2018, a website for committee information, and a five-member executive team with two additional ex-officio members. Members include the directors of the departments of Environmental Quality, Health, Parks and Tourism and Agriculture and the Natural Resources Commission. The directors of the Game and Fish Commission and the Geographic Information Office are ex-officio members.
    Shawn Hodges, a park ranger with the National Park Service at the Buffalo National River, gave a presentation detailing the 32 sites where the park service does sampling on the river and described the park service's desire to do other projects on the river. The park service would like to do more dye tracing to examine how water flows in the watershed underneath karst terrain, as well as more science education for Arkansas residents and partnerships with colleges and state agencies.
    Cheri said his office tries to reach out to people about being better stewards of the river and said most people learn and want to protect the river.
    "Most of the times, the things people do, they're just not aware that they have the potential to affect the river," Cheri said, noting the 100 or so spare tires the park service finds in the river every year during its cleanups.
    "Don't we care enough to do something about that without imposing on the way people live?" he asked.
    NW News on 01/18/2017
  • 07 Jan 2017 9:56 AM | Anonymous

    ArkansasOnline


    Hog-manure permit ruled flawed, fixable
    Judge: Administrative change will do
    By Emily Walkenhorst

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality erred in not requiring EC Farms to apply for a separate permit to apply up to 6.7 million gallons of hog manure to land located in the Buffalo National River watershed, an administrative law judge ruled this week.
    But the existing permit, which was modified rather than canceled and applied for anew, can stand if the department issues a new tracking number to create a new permit and Ellis Campbell, owner of EC Farms, pays a fee for a new permit.
    The new permit would not go out for public notice or comment through the traditional permitting channels, although the modification of the existing permit already went through those channels.
    Department of Environmental Quality Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton's ruling and order will go before the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission in February for adoption.
    "In essence, he agreed with the arguments that the petitioners made," said Richard Mays, a Heber Springs attorney who represents Carol Bitting, a Marble Falls resident who appealed the department's decision to approve the permit modification for EC Farms. "He found that there were separate permits that were required. The problem that I had with it, and I respectfully disagree, is that he said this could be cured simply by issuing a new tracking number and a new permit number and a payment of a fee."
    Mays said opening up a new permitting process that would accept public review would help people who wished to comment to make better comments. He said many people who commented on the modification appeared to be confused as to what portions of the permit were up for modification at the time, voicing their opposition to a hog farm on the property instead of a hog manure site on the property.
    Ellis Campbell, owner of EC Farms, said Friday that he had not seen the order and was "not interested in commenting yet." Campbell's attorney Bill Waddell said he could not comment Friday because he had yet to discuss the order with Campbell.
    Emails sent to department spokesmen were not returned Friday. The department was closed because of inclement weather.
    Bitting did not return an email sent to her Friday.
    Campbell applied to have his environmental permit for a hog farm that applied the hogs' manure to the land as fertilizer modified to just a manure application operation. It would allow him to apply up to 6.7 million gallons of waste that comes from Mount Judea's C&H Hog Farms onto his land.
    The land hadn't been used for hog farming or manure application since 2013, despite the permit remaining active. The department, which received numerous public comments opposed to the permit changes, approved the changes this summer.
    C&H, which is co-owned by two of Campbell's cousins and Jason Henson, has been accused of posing a pollution risk to the Buffalo River because of its federally classified "large" size, although state-funded researchers are still monitoring the farm to see whether it has polluted at all and have so far released no definite finding. Bitting has been a staunch opponent of C&H's operations in the Buffalo National River watershed.
    EC Farms would be able to apply about 6.654 million gallons of hog manure, based on the calculated Phosphorus Index in the site management plan, Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Kelly Robinson has said, although that figure does not mean EC Farms will or intends to receive that amount of hog manure.
    While C&H is federally classified as "large" and is the only medium or large hog farm in the Buffalo River's watershed, there is no such similar designation for manure application sites, Robinson has said.
    In the case brought before Moulton, Bitting, the department and EC Farms argued over whether Ellis Campbell needed a new permit when he asked the department to allow him to apply the manure on his property.
    The Pollution Control and Ecology Commission rule cited in the dispute is Regulation 5's section 5.601, which states that a "separate permit may be issued for a land application site if the operator submits an application" meeting certain criteria. Moulton had said previously that Regulation 5, titled "Liquid Animal Waste Management Systems," appears to offer two different permits under its umbrella -- one for a hog farm and another for land application.
    A department permit that allows, among other things, the application of hog manure on land as fertilizer can be modified to apply only hog manure, the department and a landowner argued in filings submitted Nov. 29.
    Attorneys for the department said nothing in Regulation 5 required EC Farms to void their current permit and apply for a new one.
    But Mays, on behalf of Bitting, argued that a separate permit is required when a permittee plans to operate only a hog manure land application site.
    When Campbell applied to modify his permit, the department processed it as a major modification subject to public notice and comment, instead of telling Campbell to apply for a new permit, which Moulton called "troubling" in his decision, issued Thursday.
    "The Department's claim that permits issued under the umbrella of a particular regulation are somehow fungible -- that a CAFO Regulation 5 permit and a land-application only Regulation 5 permit are both Regulation 5 permits and are interchangeable and therefore capable of being modified -- could potentially jeopardize the public's participation in the permitting process if those changes were deemed minor modifications by future ADEQ management," Moulton wrote. "The mandate of a separate permit in Reg. 5.601 removes all doubt about the necessity of public notice."
    Moulton concluded that both the department and EC Farms followed the Regulation 5 requirements during the application and review process.
    The Pollution Control and Ecology Commission will hear Moulton's recommended decision in February, and parties will have the chance to comment again, if they request to do so by the end of January.
    If approved, the department would issue a new tracking number for the modified permit -- essentially creating a new permit -- and would charge EC Farms a new permit fee.
    Metro on 01/07/2017

  • 20 Dec 2016 10:28 AM | Anonymous

    What transparency?

    About that plume

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: December 20, 2016 at 2:16 a.m.

    NWAOnline


    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance says the state's Department of Environmental Quality (cough) didn't allow nearly enough time to effectively analyze and respond to the Dec. 1 release of a 540-page report that was supposed to explain the results of the test hole drilled near one of two waste lagoons at C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea.

    The agency set Dec. 9 as the cutoff for online-only questions from the public. That was after allowing no questions of project manager Harbor Environmental at the Dec. 1 meeting where its results were publicly disclosed. The agency later extended that deadline until Dec. 16.

    Frankly, the way this inadequate single drill hole (that cost Arkansans $75,000) has been handled from the beginning smells worse to me than, well, a hog wallow.

    The sole reason for drilling at the hog factory was to confirm the electrical resistivity imaging test conducted in 2015 by Dr. Todd Halihan of Oklahoma State. His work detected a large plume that differed radically from the surrounding subsurface soils, located beneath a corner of the lower of two lagoons, as well as a fracture.

    At the time, our state declined Halihan's offer to arrange drilling, likely at no cost, to determine if the plume was leaked waste.

    Then there was the backhanded way Halihan's study came to public awareness after the Big Creek Research and Extension Team from UA's Division of Agriculture had failed to even acknowledge its existence until the Watershed Alliance sent a Freedom of Information Act request.

    In its news release last week, the Alliance explained: "the hole was drilled due to concerns raised initially by members of the [Big Creek team] who noted a possible 'major fracture and movement of waste' near the ponds. However, neither [the Department of Environmental Quality], the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, nor the public was made aware of this concern until over a year later when [the alliance] brought it to their attention."

    In the 540-page report, this clear and simple sentence has yet to be located: "We drilled directly into the plume and discovered the material inside consisted of ..."

    So why not, since this suspicious glob was the very reason for the hole?

    Alliance president Gordon Watkins said his organization is concerned that "in spite of ADEQ's assurances of improved transparency concerning the C&H Hog Farm, the public is being prevented from seeking clarification by asking questions directly of Harbor." Alliance questions and concerns are posted at buffaloriveralliance.org (click on BRWA questions to ADEQ).

    Watkins said "conspicuously absent" from Harbor's Dec. 1 presentation or subsequent report was discussion of Halihan's study. He said the only reference made to it appeared in two sentences: "Interpreted results from a 2015 electrical resistivity imaging survey commissioned by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team suggested vertical leakage from the waste storage ponds and possible fracturing within limestone bedrock below the site. The location of the boring was chosen by ADEQ based on the ERI data." Again unclear.

    The Alliance news release notes the drilling found that an apparent void was detected at a depth that closely corresponds to that of the pond floors: "The void was detected during drilling and again when difficulty was encountered while sealing up the hole above a depth of 25 feet below the ground. Water for lubricating the drilling process was lost at this depth and the final grouting of the shaft required almost 50 percent more in cement than what the driller had calculated.

    "The report provided little discussion regarding this seemingly significant karst feature. The report and the cores show that karst is indicated throughout most of the 120-foot range of the drilled shaft. Contrary to the earlier environmental assessment of the site, this facility and its waste ponds are clearly sitting atop karst," the alliance added.

    Alliance member Jack Stewart: "Our questions are the result of a hurriedly prepared analysis of a fairly lengthy report. We continue to ask ADEQ why they have chosen to force the public to respond in such a short time frame."

    Stewart said the agency was notified that alliance efforts to correlate field notes, data, photos, and interpretation will result in questions that will then result in follow-up questions. "We have emphatically requested ... an interactive public question and answer session with Harbor Environmental."

    Ellen Corley of the alliance noted: "Thankfully, the sampling results do not appear to show contamination of groundwater inside this drilled hole. However, the report by geologist Tai Hubbard hired ... as an independent observer ... clearly noted multiple limitations of the study, not the least of which was that it provided for only a single drilled hole."

    Yep, valued readers, still lots more questions than answers.

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

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

    Editorial on 12/20/2016

  • 17 Dec 2016 1:13 PM | Anonymous

    Harrison Daily Times

    Watershed alliance questions hog farm test results


    Posted: Saturday, December 17, 2016 12:00 pm

    Staff Report news@harrisondaily.com | 0 comments


     

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance Inc. has reviewed the drilling report provided by Harbor Environmental that details results of the single hole that was drilled at C&H Hog Farm on Sept. 21 through Sept. 23.

    The hole was drilled due to concerns raised initially by members of the Big Creek Research and Extension Team who noted a possible “major fracture and movement of waste” near the ponds.

    However, neither Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, nor the public was made aware of this concern until over a year later when BRWA brought it to their attention. Only then did ADEQ decide to proceed with a limited drilling investigation, a press release said.

    Harbor presented a summary of the drilling report to the public on Dec. 1 in which the public was not allowed to comment or ask questions.

    The 540-plus page drilling report was not made available until after the presentation, allowing no opportunity for BRWA or the public to review or seek clarification. The public was directed to submit all questions or comments in writing to the ADEQ website by Dec. 9. ADEQ in response to public requests, did extend the deadline for submitting informed questions until Dec. 16.

    “We are concerned that in spite of ADEQ’s assurances of improved transparency concerning the C&H Hog Farm, the public is being prevented from seeking clarification by asking questions directly of Harbor,” BRWA president Gordon Watkins said.

    Watkins also said the group’s website at http://buffaloriveralliance.org/resources/Pictures/Drilling%20Report%20Questions.pdf contains questions submitted to ADEQ.

    Ellen Corley of BRWA noted, “Thankfully, the sampling results do not appear to show contamination of ground water in this drilled hole. However, the report by geologist Tai Hubbard hired by ADEQ as an independent observer of the investigation, clearly noted multiple limitations of the study, not the least of which was that it provided for only a single drilled hole.”

    “Other questions concern the apparent void detected at a depth that closely corresponds to the depths of the pond floors. The void was detected during drilling and again when difficulty was encountered while sealing up the hole above a depth of 25 feet below the ground. Water for lubricating the drilling process was lost at this depth and the final grouting of the shaft required almost 50 percent more in cement than what the driller had calculated. The report provided little discussion regarding this seemingly significant karst feature. The report and the cores show that karst is indicated throughout most of the 120-foot range of the drilled shaft. Contrary to the earlier Environmental Assessment of the site, this facility and its waste ponds are clearly sitting atop karst.”

    Jack Stewart of BRWA went on to say, “Our questions are the result of a hurriedly prepared analysis of a fairly lengthy report. We continue to ask ADEQ why they have chosen to force the pubic to respond in such a short timeframe. We have communicated to ADEQ that our efforts to correlate various field notes, data, photos, and interpretation will result in questions whose answers will naturally elicit follow-on questions. We have emphatically requested that ADEQ provide for an interactive public question and answer session with Harbor Environmental.  Dr. Joe Nix of Ouachita Baptist University, who performed some of the investigation’s data analysis, said it best: ‘When you close the door on questions, that only raises questions. That is not how science is done.’”

  • 15 Dec 2016 1:57 PM | Anonymous


    https://thefern.org/ag_insider/pig-cafos-influence-timing-human-flu-seasons-study-shows/

    Pig CAFOs influence timing of human flu seasons, study shows

    By  Maryn McKenna,  December 15, 2016


    The enormous numbers of animals concentrated in industrial pig farms are changing the pattern of flu seasons, by providing flu viruses a place to jump between humans and animals and multiply faster than they otherwise would, according to  new research from North Carolina — a state that is second only to Iowa in pig production.

    Using publicly available data, researchers at Duke University mapped the locations of swine in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in North Carolina, which sells almost 10 million hogs per year and accounts for more than 14 percent of the U.S. pig market. They crossmatched that information with data on the occurrence of flu in the state during four flu seasons, from 2008 to 2012. They found that in two of those flu seasons, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, cases peaked significantly earlier than in the other two.

    What likely happened, they say, is that the virus circulating in those flu seasons was carried onto farms by workers and spread to the pigs — and as it passed from pig to pig, the virus had a chance to reproduce in a manner that would not have happened in the absence of CAFOs. That much larger amount of virus spread back out into surrounding community, spiking the number of flu cases earlier in the flu season.

    The researchers did not have the data to say whether the virus circulating through pigs made the flu season worse overall, nor whether it caused more serious illness in individual people. But the effect on the timing of the season ought to be enough to prompt a public health response, they said.

    “We don’t want to be implicating the swine industry as a public health threat; it’s a phenomenon of modern food production that there are heavy concentrations of animals like this,” said  Paul Lantos, a physician and expert in geographic information systems who is the first author of the paper, which appears in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

    But, he said, health authorities should think about creating surveillance systems around areas where diseases can pass between animals and humans, to detect their crossover. And they should consider emphasizing flu vaccination in communities around CAFOs, to protect farm workers and anyone to whom workers might transmit flu.

    “Farm workers are predominantly young healthy males, and they are not the people usually targeted by intensive flu vaccination campaigns; those focus on children, the elderly and the infirm,” Lantos said.

    There’s a nuance to the Duke team’s findings, and it has to do with the complex ecology of flu. The years when the North Carolina flu season was affected by local CAFOs were years when the seasons’ main virus was a “ swine flu” — that is, a strain of flu that had already partially adapted to pigs.

    Flu is a virus that easily swaps genetic segments, and strains that infect humans can incorporate portions of flus that previously passed through birds or pigs. When those segments combine, they can create a new flu that human immune systems have never experienced before, which can lead to more frequent and sometimes more severe illness. The 2009-10 virus was so novel that it sparked a worldwide pandemic, the  first in more than 40 years.

    But because that virus was already adapted to pigs, it was able to get back onto pig farms and boil up into greater amounts of flu by passing among the animals. That did not occur in the first and fourth seasons the team studied. In 2008-2009, the seasonal flu was not a pig-adapted strain; and by the fourth year, 2011-12, the state data shows there were fewer cases in humans, and presumably fewer to pass along to pigs.

    Flu viruses change every year — which is why flu vaccines are adjusted and repeated annually — and their makeup from one year to the next is unpredictable. But it’s been known for a while that pig farms are hot spots for flu transmission. Flu passing from farm workers to pigs, and from pigs to workers, has been documented in  Canada Romania China , and in  several  studies  in Iowa.

    Because of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who  work on pig farms, and even people who  raise pigs to show at fairs, be vaccinated against flu. But given this research, Lantos said, maybe vaccination should be emphasized for people who also live near pig farms. Farm workers may unknowingly be serving as bridges that allow flu to cross unmonitored back into their families, to their communities and then to the outside world.

    Maryn McKenna is a  National Geographic contributor and the author of Superbug and Beating Back the Devil . She last wrote for FERN about  how the Netherlands cut antibiotic use on farms. Her new book on antibiotics in agriculture will be published by National Geographic Books/Penguin Random House in 2017She writes regularly about antibiotics and agriculture for Ag Insider.

  • 12 Dec 2016 2:27 PM | Anonymous

    Watershed meetings underway

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: December 12, 2016 at 2:29 a.m.

    NWAOnline


    MARSHALL — About 100 people attended the first public meeting of an 18-month process to create a watershed management plan for the Buffalo River last week.

    Many of them — farmers, neighbors and outsiders who love the Buffalo — agreed on some of the same concerns for the river: too much gravel in the river, failing septic tanks, erosion. Many also agreed that research on the area’s lagging economy should be done before a management plan is finalized, and many agreed that education and cooperation between all levels of government and locals is important.

    They disagreed on other issues: whether agriculture poses a threat, and whether visitors contribute to degradation of the river. Some expressed concerns about whether the management plan would consider all the relevant players in the watershed and be fair to everyone, and whether the management plan would ever become more regulatory than voluntary.

    FTN Associates, an Arkansas environmental engineering firm, held the public meeting Thursday morning at the Searcy County Civic Center gymnasium, the first of six public meetings on the proposed watershed-management plan. Hired by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, the firm has handled watershed-management plans in other parts of Arkansas, in Mississippi and in West Virginia.

    The plans always outline recommended voluntary actions for watershed management, FTN Systems Ecologist Kent Thornton told Thursday’s group. None have ever become regulatory.

    The purpose of a watershed-management plan is to outline conservation recommendations and make watershed landowners available for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant funds to implement those recommendations, Thornton said.

    Allen Brown, environmental program coordinator for the commission, described Thursday’s meeting as a “fact-finding mission” to gauge people’s concerns for the river.

    “We got some pretty good responses from landowners as far as what they want to address,” Brown said, adding that people had some common themes in their concerns.

    But the ways issues may be addressed are myriad, Brown said, and would be a part of the discussion during the development process for the management plan.

    The Buffalo River watershed spans hundreds of square miles in mostly Newton and Searcy counties. Parts of the watershed extend into Marion, Baxter, Stone, Van Buren and Pope counties.

    A watershed is an area surrounding a body of water that eventually drains into the body of water. The watershed management plan would be intended for all 150 miles of the river, not just the 135 miles that are designated as the Buffalo National River by the National Park Service.

    The plan will not consider facilities that have Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality permits because the commission has no authority over those, Thornton told the crowd.

    Gordon Watkins, a Jasper cattle farmer and president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, expressed concern that his nonpermitted cattle farm would be subject to more scrutiny than a permitted hog farm during the watershed-management plan development process.

    FTN Associates will host additional meetings about every three months during the watershed-management plan development process. Thornton said he expects to hold the next meeting at the end of March.

    Funds for the plan came from a $107,000 grant from the EPA. The plan is a part of the state’s larger Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee — a committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson that comprises five state agencies and will include public meetings and stakeholder input. That committee will meet for the first time in January, officials have said, although no date has been set.

    There was little mention Thursday of C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea — the only federally classified “large” hog farm in the watershed. The farm has drawn opposition for about the past four years because of the perceived risk it poses to the river, and that opposition has been the catalyst for research at the farm and regulation changes, including a temporary ban on medium and large hog farms in the watershed pending certain research results.

    But agriculture and whether the management plan would address it were among the major concerns expressed Thursday.

    Niagle Ratchford, Mike Love and Billy Ragland — all farmers — said they attended Thursday’s meeting to learn more about the development process for the management plan and make sure it weighed all stakeholders’ input evenly.

    “I just want to see it’s done fairly,” said Ragland, a cattle and hay farmer just north of Marshall.

    Love, a hay farmer, said he was concerned about any possible government control of land that wouldn’t benefit the environment. He said he didn’t want to see regulations turn the area back into forestland, arguing that farming and timber were both major industries to the area.

    Twin brothers Larry and Garry Lilley, who live outside of the watershed but are frequent visitors to the Buffalo River, noted the great economic impact of both tourism and trout fishing in the watershed and said their top concern was seeing C&H shut down.

    Sara Thorne, a member of the White River chapter of Trout Unlimited, said she’s concerned for Buffalo River tourism, which she described as a major industry in the watershed.

    Thorne said Thursday’s meeting was informative and helped familiarize people with the development process for a watershed management plan.

    Thorne said she hopes the process will consider groups in the watershed that would be willing to help implement it and the pollution risk posed by animal farms and associated fertilizer runoff. She’s also concerned about erosion and wants to see more measures taken to prevent it.

    “You’ve got to get involved in taking care of this stuff,” she said.

    NW News on 12/12/2016


  • 12 Dec 2016 7:31 AM | Anonymous

    Earthjustice Fertile Grounds Blog


    POTENTIALLY LETHAL EMISSIONS GO UNREPORTED ON FACTORY FARMS

    By Jonathan Smith | Monday, December 12, 2016


    In many rural communities across the country, longtime residents have suddenly found themselves surrounded by industrial livestock facilities. In these facilities, hundreds of cows, thousands of pigs or tens of thousands of chickens are kept in confined spaces to be fattened up as quickly as possible. Most meat in America comes from factory farms like these. Every day, families living near these facilities are exposed to toxic ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from the manure created and stored at these confined animal feeding operations. People experience nausea, headaches, increased rates of asthma and chronic lung disease due to air pollution from livestock factories.

    This pollution isn’t reported to the public or to local authorities, thanks to an exemptiongranted by the outgoing Bush administration in 2008. Today, after years of procedural delays, I’m finally going to court on behalf of local communities to demand that the EPA take back this irrational exemption. While other industrial facilities are required by law to report their toxic releases, tens of thousands of livestock factories have essentially been given a free pass by the EPA. The exemption stymies local efforts to clean up pollution and puts the health of local people at risk. It’s also unlawful, as I will argue in court.

    The manure produced by a medium-sized livestock factory is equivalent to that of a city of almost 70,000 people. But unlike cities, these factory farms don’t have sewage treatment systems. They often store manure in open pits and then pump it out and spray it onto surrounding fields—much more manure than would be needed to fertilize the fields. Some livestock factories emit as much as 2,000 pounds of toxic ammonia a day from manure, as well hydrogen sulfide and other pollution.


    People who live nearby suffer from constant exposure to foul odors, as well as the toxic effects of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. At low levels, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Prolonged exposure to ammonia can burn lung tissue, and the long-term effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure include memory loss, poor motor function and decreased attention span. Toxic emissions from manure can even be fatal. On two separate occasions in 2015, father and son hog producers in the Midwest were overcome by fumes from a manure pit and died.

    Livestock facilities produce more ammonia than any other industry. In fact, by the EPA’s own estimate, 73 percent of U.S. ammonia emissions come from livestock facilities. Why would the EPA allow these emissions to go unreported? Without basic information about emissions, communities across the country cannot take steps to protect their health, such as avoiding polluting facilities or working at the local level to clean up the dirtiest facilities. Without this information, the government won’t be able to determine what steps may be necessary to fix the problem, such as monitoring and clean-up efforts or new permitting requirements for facilities to reduce pollution. 

    Iowa native Jason Chance and several other rural residents submitted sworn statements to the court last year recounting how the arrival of large hog factories forced them to completely alter their lifestyles. The Chance family lived within two miles of 19,000 hogs and the open pits that held their manure. Chance, his wife and his daughter experienced nausea, diarrhea and respiratory problems; eye, nose and throat irritation; and severe headaches because of the noxious gases from the hog factories. They gave up taking long walks on their property and had to wear respiratory masks to do yard work.

    “I believe that my family, my community and I have the right to know about the hazardous air pollutants to which they are being exposed,” Chance told the court. He also believes hog operations would be more likely to take steps to reduce or eliminate their emissions if the pollution had to be publicly reported.

    State and local emergency response agencies have also spoken out against the reporting exemption. Tim Gablehouse, spokesperson for a national association that includes 4,500 emergency planning and preparedness agencies, writes in a personal blog post that toxic emissions reports provide critical information that helps responders do their jobs in case of an emergency at or near a factory farm. Without this information, public safety and even the lives of emergency responders are at risk.

    Ever since the exemption was granted in 2008, Earthjustice has been fighting to roll it back and protect people’s right to know about potential health hazards in their neighborhoods. The EPA has been dragging its feet on this issue, perhaps hoping it will just go away—but we are not backing down.

    In court, the agency will have a hard time explaining its unlawful, arbitrary decision to allow the livestock industry to keep the public—and those charged with protecting public health—in the dark about hazardous emissions. Eliminating the exemption for livestock factories will be a promising step forward for public health and quality of life in rural America.


  • 06 Dec 2016 1:39 PM | Anonymous

    Threat unchanged 


    NWAOnline


    Lest readers become confused by results coming out of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's (cough) results of the single hole drilled near one of the waste lagoons at C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed, please allow me to remind everyone.

    This was but a single hole sunk at a cost to taxpayers of $75,000 specifically to determine if the large plume of suspected waste (detected by an electrical resistivity analysis in 2015) was indeed swine waste that had been leaking into what also appeared to be a fractured area beneath one corner of the lower lagoon.

    Like many others, I'm waiting for experts who comprehend the technical jargon in the contractor's findings to determine if the hole was sunk directly into the plume rather than near or above it.

    When it comes to ensuring public transparency, I also vastly prefer plain spoken English, as in, "We dug into the questionable plume that started all this and discovered 1. hog waste, 2. wet clay, 3. Skippy's Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter."

    Regardless of what the findings of this boring are interpreted to reveal, the potential threat to our sacred Buffalo from the continually spraying of millions of gallons of untreated hog waste onto a limited number of acres close to or adjoining a major tributary of the Buffalo remain more obvious, relevant and significant than ever.

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

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

    Editorial on 12/06/2016


  • 05 Dec 2016 7:58 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansas Times


    Judge hears arguments in appeal of hog waste 'land farming' permit near Buffalo River

    Posted By Benjamin Hardy on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 4:26 PM



    This morning, arguments for and against a permit to 'land farm' up to 6.7 million gallons of hog waste in the Buffalo River watershed were presented to Charles Moulton, an administrative judge with the Pollution Control & Ecology Commission. 

    The modified permit for EC Farms, a facility near Deer, was granted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality earlier this year. Three petitioners have appealed ADEQ's decision, arguing that the environmental regulator failed to follow its own regulations and that the Buffalo is at risk of contamination. ADEQ insists that it was right to grant the permit.

    Moulton first heard arguments on the EC Farms permit at a hearing in November, but said he needed briefs from attorneys on both sides. 

    Although the larger issue is the environmental integrity of the river, the question at hand is a technical matter about whether ADEQ can grant a permit modification under the governing regulation, or whether EC Farms should have had to apply for a brand new permit. Today's hearing included testimony from ADEQ staff as to the agency's permitting process.

    The judge did not make a ruling today, but attorneys said they did not need to submit additional briefs after the hearing. A decision will likely come in the next few weeks.
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