Buffalo River 


  • 11 Apr 2017 6:34 AM | Anonymous

    MIKE MASTERSON: Buffalo on list

    Rivers in danger

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: April 11, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.


    The nightmare we've expected ever since our state wrongheadedly permitted C&H Hog Farms to set up shop in our fragile Buffalo National River watershed is becoming reality, my friends.

    The nonprofit American Rivers organization (americanrivers.org) in its annual study, "America's Most Endangered Rivers," has named the Buffalo as No. 9 on its Top 10 list for 2017, based on the potential this factory with 6,500 swine has to pollute the sacred river.

    This, unfortunately, is the new national perception of those who understand at-risk rivers. We have no one but our own Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) and a special-interest-manipulated state government to thank for this shameful development. Rivers have no money or political influence.

    American Rivers, headquartered in Washington, D.C., since 1973 has protected wild rivers and restored damaged streams, in the process restoring more than 150,000 miles of U.S. rivers. Because our state wasn't caring enough to cherish this watershed, this is the reputation we're now projecting of the country's first national river.

    Here, in part, is what American Rivers had to say: "The Buffalo River is one of the longest undammed rivers west of the Mississippi. It was designated as the nation's first national river by Congress in 1972 to preserve its clean water and other outstanding values.

    "But today, a concentrated animal feeding operation [CAFO] feeding 80,000 hogs per year generates waste equivalent to a city of 30,000 people along a Buffalo River tributary. Despite public outcry, millions of gallons of hog waste are sprayed on fields and stored in manure ponds, threatening the river's clean water. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality must deny the project's permit for continued operation in order to safeguard this national treasure for today's communities and future generations."

    American Rivers wrote: "In 2015, more than 1.46 million tourists visited the Buffalo National River generating $62 million and employing more than 960 people from tourism-related activities ... . The upper reach, flowing from the headwaters through the Upper Buffalo Wilderness to the boundary of Ozark National Forest, is protected as a Wild and Scenic River. From the national forest boundary to its confluence with the White River, the Buffalo is designated as a National River and managed as a unit of the National Park Service.

    "... The Buffalo River supports more than 300 species of fish and wildlife including beaver, elk, black bear, smallmouth bass and catfish. The federally endangered gray bat, Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat are found in the karst cave networks surrounding the river."

    "... (CAFOs) are one of the largest contributors of pollutants to streams and waterways across the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2013, the 6,500-head hog CAFO was quietly permitted and constructed by C&H Hog Farms Inc., unbeknownst to the public. The hog CAFO, including massive indoor feedlots and two manure-filled ponds, sits on a hill along one of Buffalo National River's main tributaries, Big Creek, less than six miles from the mainstem of the river.

    "Each year, millions of gallons of liquid hog waste are sprayed onto pastures and fields, some of which lie in the floodplain. This manure spreading is particularly harmful in areas where topsoil is thin and the underlying geology is a porous limestone (karst) that is prone to fissures, sinkholes and rapid transmission of groundwater into the water table. Dye tracing studies around the CAFO have shown that water can travel under mountains across 13 miles of the watershed, due to the porous karst geology. Consequently, any contaminants in the manure fields or ponds are having far-reaching effects, including polluting groundwater wells and threatening endangered species. Water quality indicators, including unprecedented algal bloom in 2016, E. coli bacterial concentrations exceeding allowable limits and dissolved oxygen concentrations below allowable limits, suggest the Buffalo National River and its fish and wildlife are being negatively impacted by the nutrients produced by the CAFO.

    "Already, paddlers, swimmers and [others] are seeing changes in water quality as algae covers miles of river bottom. Despite public outcry, elevated levels of E. coli bacteria noted in nearby streams by the National Park Service in 2015, and ample evidence of pollution in other areas where these types of facilities operate, the hog CAFO has continued to generate raw, untreated sewage that equals the output of a small city. Tourist-related businesses, such as float services, cabin and motel rentals, worry visitors will stop coming if the water continues to degrade."

    As to what it advocates, American Rivers said: "Despite rising national protests and evidence of high E. coli levels and low dissolved oxygen on Big Creek and the Buffalo, the CAFO is seeking to change from a federal permit to a state permit that would allow it to continue to operate in perpetuity.

    "In 2017, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will consider the issuance of a Regulation 5 permit for this CAFO. The Buffalo National River flows in Arkansas, but it belongs to every citizen of our country."


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

  • 11 Apr 2017 4:30 AM | Anonymous


    Court rejects Bush rule exempting CAFOs from reporting

    Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter

    Published: Tuesday, April 11, 2017

    A federal court tossed out a 2008 U.S. EPA rule exempting animal feeding operations from reporting pollution discharges.  

    In a win for environmentalists, a federal court today tossed a George W. Bush-era rule exempting animal feeding operations from certain pollution reporting requirements.

    A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with green groups that lawmakers never intended to give U.S. EPA the authority to exclude those operations.

    Congress didn't "give the agency carte blanche to ignore the statute whenever it decides the reporting requirements aren't worth the trouble," Judge Stephen Williams, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the court.

    The court also found that manure storage at livestock operations poses more than a "theoretical" risk to public health.

    At issue is a rule that EPA adopted in December 2008 exempting all animal feeding operations from reporting releases of hazardous air pollution from animal waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

    Typically, facilities covered by CERCLA have to report discharges of pollutants above certain thresholds to a National Response Center.

    EPA's rule also exempted all but large concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, from reporting emissions to local and state emergency officials under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

    The Waterkeeper Alliance, the Humane Society of the United States and other environmental groups filed the lawsuit, arguing that the rule put citizens at risk of breathing harmful ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

    EPA, though, said that requiring producers to report under CERCLA would be burdensome and fruitless because "local response agencies are very unlikely to respond" to reports of pollution. The government also argued that EPA lacked information on how to go about measuring emissions.

    EPA noted that the statutes contained unrelated reporting exceptions, including one for releases of engine exhaust. The agency argued that it should be afforded deference under the Chevron legal doctrine because there was ambiguity over whether it could carve out new exemptions that weren't specifically written into the statute.

    But Williams rejected those arguments, writing that Congress didn't mean for EPA to fashion new exemptions.

    "Read together the statutory provisions set forth a straightforward reporting requirement for any non-exempt release," Williams wrote.

    "Conspicuously missing," he added, "is any language of delegation, such as that reports be 'as appropriate,' 'effective,' 'economical,' or made 'under circumstances to be determined by the EPA.'"

    Williams also rejected EPA's arguments that the environmentalists didn't have legal standing to sue because they couldn't show a concrete harm tied to EPA's reporting exemption. He agreed with the environmental groups that they have been harmed because they have been deprived of information about livestock operations (E&E News PM, Dec. 12, 2016).

    The judge also slammed EPA's arguments about the fruitless nature of reporting: "We find that those reports aren't nearly as useless as the EPA makes them out to be," he wrote.

    While acknowledging that it's difficult to measure releases from animal operations because emissions don't come out of a smokestack, Williams wrote that releases can pose a serious risk.

    "Anyone with a pet knows firsthand that raising animals means dealing with animal waste," he wrote. "But many of us may not realize that as the waste breaks down, it emits serious pollutants — most notably ammonia and hydrogen sulfide."

    When manure that's sitting in storage is agitated for pumping, it can stir up emissions of the hazardous air pollutants, Williams said.

    The risk from manure storage "isn't theoretical," Williams wrote. "People have become seriously ill and even died as a result of pit agitation."

    Along with vacating the 2008 rule, the court also dismissed as moot a lawsuit by the National Pork Producers Council challenging EPA's decision to require large CAFOs to report under the right-to-know law.

    Chevron skepticism

    Judges Janice Rogers Brown, a Republican appointee, and Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee, heard the case with Williams.

    In a concurring opinion, Brown said she agreed with the court's finding but said she was skeptical about some of the recent debate in legal circles about the two-step analysis that courts typically undertake under the Chevron doctrine.

    Under the first step, courts look to whether Congress has been silent or ambiguous on an issue. The second step requires an analysis of whether an agency has acted reasonably.

    While she agreed that the D.C. Circuit did the proper Chevron analysis in the case at hand, Brown said she worried that some scholars advocate leaving out the first step and simply looking at whether a federal agency action is reasonable.

    "Congress is out of the picture altogether," she wrote. "Agencies are free to experiment with various interpretations, and courts are free to avoid determining the meaning of statutes."

    "It isn't fair. It isn't nice," Brown wrote, quoting the Frank Sinatra song "Luck Be A Lady."

    Leaving out the first step, she said, would implicate the separation of powers concerns that Justice Neil Gorsuch — then a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — raised in an August 2016 concurring opinion. Gorsuch, who was sworn in for a seat on the Supreme Court yesterday, has questioned whether Chevron is still a valid legal doctrine.

    Collapsing the two-step analysis, Brown said, was "yet another reason to question Chevron's consistency" with judges' duty to "say what the law is."

  • 10 Apr 2017 7:04 AM | Anonymous

    Sad news for citizens of North Carolina.

    From the Rachel Carson Council 

    BREAKING!! Hog Pollution Protection Bill
    Heads to Governor’s Desk

    Sign here to tell
    Governor Roy Cooper (D-NC) to VETO it!!

    Your efforts helped get bi-partisan opposition to HB 467 that protects the industrial hog industry and limits citizens’ rights to sue for damages to their homes from hog waste and pollution. We got large protests at the Capitol and good media coverage. But, we fell short. And passage of the Senate version is virtually certain.

    HB467/S460 will soon head to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk for signature into law. Gov. Cooper is our last hope to stop this giveaway to big pork. Sign our new petition directly to him here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/gov-cooper-veto-the-big?source=c.em.mt&r_by=4205069. Tell Gov. Cooper he MUST VETO this outrageous bill that limits the rights of citizens to protect their homes – a bill that harms poor and minority North Carolinians the most.

    Then forward our petition to friends, colleagues, and neighbors, everyone you know! This bill is an assault on environmental justice and on the fundamental freedoms of all Americans, not just North Carolinians.

    We MUST make our voices heard: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/gov-cooper-veto-the-big?source=c.em.mt&r_by=4205069

    After you sign (and personal comments help), call Governor Cooper’s office directly at 919-814-2000 to share your opposition and say that you will be looking for his VETO!!

  • 09 Apr 2017 6:31 AM | Anonymous

    Our Buffalo

    What permit?

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: April 9, 2017 at 1:48 a.m.

    Many Arkansans have wondered for years how in the world our state's Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) could have permitted a large hog factory in the sacred Buffalo National River watershed without conducting extensive geologic and engineering studies beforehand.

    And how could the agency's own director, the governor, the National Park Service and even agency staff members not have known such a permit was under review?

    After reaching out to former agency employees I consider credible, who say they recognize the decision that allowed the controversial C&H Hog Farms to sail through its permitting process, I finally have a fair understanding of how this could have happened.

    If their scenario isn't smack on the money, I believe it's far more than a pig in a poke (sorry).

    I'm told the original package submitted by C&H in 2012 contained an application for a construction permit, another for an operating permit, and one for a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permit, all of which are expected for such facilities. In short, the owners acted in full compliance with legal requirements.

    A state-mandated construction permit requires such a proposed facility jump through regulatory hoops to ensure it's constructed to specific design standards in a location suitable to the terrain and environment.

    Even though C&H submitted all necessary plans and specifications to receive its "permit to construct," unbelievably, I'm told, the department never formally reviewed them because one or more of the senior management staff decided the construction permit portion wouldn't be necessary for this particular massive animal factory in the karst-riddled Buffalo watershed.

    Who would make such a highly questionable and troubling decision? It's certainly an answer, were I governor or a member of the state's Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, that I'd insist on knowing.

    Forgoing the construction permit ensured there would be no agency reviews of an engineering or geologic nature conducted. From that point on the C&H application became pretty much just another proposed CAFO being reviewed, processed and approved by worker bees. It obviously didn't matter to some in the department that this factory containing some 6,500 swine and endless massive quantities of untreated waste was approved without careful scientific review to begin spreading that waste alongside a major tributary of the Buffalo six miles downstream.

    So, valued readers, the potential serious problems that the Department of Environmental Quality never bothered studying were neither demanded nor achieved. Although I'm told state law says it's unlawful to construct such approved facilities without the department first issuing the specific authorization to do so via a construction permit.

    As time and events continue to unfold in this shameful saga that could have easily been avoided, perhaps we the people hopefully will discover who apparently made that fateful decision to ignore a construction permit and why. You'd think the Pollution Control and Ecology commissioners would demand some honest answers, wouldn't you?

    Meanwhile, on a related note, folks at the National Parks Conservation Association said last week that the Department of Environmental Quality and the governor's office had received more than 14,000 comments as of the final day for public comments on awarding C&H a new permit. And I'm betting that's but a tenth of those who are opposed to issuing another permit in this sacred location of our state, especially when it draws 1.5 million tourists and recreation-seekers a year and the estimated $60 million they spend to support some 960 people who work in related businesses.

  • 04 Apr 2017 7:07 AM | Anonymous



    MIKE MASTERSON: Letter to the governor 

    That hog factory

    By Mike Masterson

    The original version of this appeal was published April 12, 2016, almost a year ago. This being the final week kindly afforded we the people by our state's Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) for public comment on a new permit for C&H Hog Farms, it seemed a relevant time to reprint it. Still awaiting a response, by the way.

    Dear Governor Hutchinson: Having known you and our gracious state's first lady Susan for years, you realize I wouldn't write this unless my heartfelt convictions were firmly behind these words.

    I know you, having served in the same 3rd District congressional seat my uncle, the late John Paul Hammerschmidt, held for 26 years, understand better than most the trials of public responsibility and how close the Buffalo River was to his heart and conscience. That's why he acted in the face of strong local resistance to ensure this precious resource was preserved for generations to come.

    His willingness to do what he and some Arkansas colleagues in Congress knew deep inside was the right thing to do resulted in the Buffalo being named our country's first national river in 1972. How wonderful for our state.

    Of his many achievements in the career of public service he so honored and cherished, I believe his efforts to ensure the Buffalo River remained protected were the ones in which he took most pride.

    So I write to sincerely ask you, on behalf of myself and untold thousands of concerned Arkansans and others who've enjoyed the experience of the magnificent Buffalo National River, to do whatever's necessary to stop the likely contamination of our precious Buffalo National River from raw hog waste.

    Good-ol'-boy arm-twisting politics, self-interested agricultural lobbyists and campaign contributors be damned; we ask you to act as the elected governor of Arkansas to ensure this natural treasure is never polluted by what geoscience experts believe is the inevitable contamination from swine waste continuously dumped into the Buffalo watershed through rapid, steady subsurface seepage, as well as into its primary tributaries, including Big Creek.

    No lesser authorities than the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as nationally respected former UA geosciences professor John Van Brahana, have conducted studies that strongly agree, indicating such pollution already is affecting the watershed through increased E. coli counts and/or low dissolved oxygen levels.

    Warning lights are on. Yet your state agency solely responsible for ensuring our Buffalo is never contaminated, the very one that wrongly allowed this travesty into the karst-laden region more than two years ago, stands by idly, even making hollow excuses why it can do nothing due to "policies."

    Above all words and excuses, Mr. Governor, common sense tells every Arkansan that one cannot continually spray raw feces and urine in amounts larger than are created by the nearby city of Harrison onto overly saturated fields bordering Big Creek without those millions of gallons causing pollution. Water does flow downhill to the Buffalo.

    Yes, I realize your predecessor Mike Beebe formed a five-year survey called the Big Creek Research and Extension Team from the UA's Department of Agriculture. That group not only costs the taxpayers at least $300,000 to perform its responsibilities, but there is widespread skepticism as to its making impartial assessments when it comes to policing C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea and its 6,500 confined swine.

    After all, we have state agricultural academics using state funds to investigate the credibility of the state's Department of Environmental Quality, with its former director saying even she didn't realize her agency had done so. Neither did the governor, the National Park Service or Environmental Quality's local staffers. Good grief!

    Those special interests that embrace the hog factory staying put in this precious and sensitive environmental location claim to support farming and the farmer, as well as the pork-producing industry. I say this type of corporately financed concentrated animal feeding operation obviously diminishes and even eliminates genuine family farms who can't compete. In this instance, a misplaced factory seriously endangers a $54 million-a-year recreation and tourism gemstone in one of Arkansas' poorest regions.

    Finally, in my appeal to do the right thing and take meaningful action with the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission you appoint, and the seemingly neutered and fully politicized Department of Environmental Quality, I refer to previous Gov. Mike Beebe's biggest confessed regret being that he was unaware this factory was being permitted.

    Beebe was quoted by a fellow columnist saying: "I wish it was never there. I've stopped all future ones. ... If I had it to do over, it wouldn't happen."

    Today, Governor Hutchinson, the people of Arkansas are closely watching how you choose to step up to resolve this most significant matter. I'm truly hoping you choose to follow John Paul's sense of integrity and do the obvious proper and honorable thing by our only national river.

    Rather than regret, closing this misplaced factory before it irreparably contaminates our national river could become among your finest achievements in office.


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

    Editorial on 04/04/2017

  • 01 Apr 2017 1:05 PM | Anonymous


    Court date sought in hog-waste case

    Two of the three women who appealed the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to issue a permit to EC Farms in the Buffalo River watershed have taken their case to circuit court.

    Carol Bitting and Lynn Wellford filed an appeal in Newton County Circuit Court of the decision of the department’s administrative law judge, Charles Moulton, to side with Bitting’s argument but allow the department to issue EC Farms a new permit without reopening the application process.

    The permit allows EC Farms to spread more than 6 million gallons of hog manure on its land, but the manure would only come from C&H Hog Farms, which produces about 2.3 million gallons of hog manure and already spreads much of that on its property.

    Bitting, Wellford and Nancy Haller appealed the permit’s issuance, but Moulton dismissed Wellford’s and Haller’s complaints and upheld only Bitting’s for a hearing.

    Bitting had claimed regulations required the department to issue a separate permit for spreading the hog manure on EC Farms, rather than allowing EC Farms to simply modify it to accept C&H manure. Moulton agreed but did not reopen the application process.

    Bitting and Wellford appealed Moulton’s decision Feb. 24. Haller died of cancer March 8.

    Opponents of the hog farm have expressed concerns about the potential for hog manure ending up in the nearby Buffalo River and ruining the area’s scenic qualities.

  • 29 Mar 2017 8:04 AM | Anonymous

    News Tribune

    Green again blocks hog farm vote

    March 29th, 2017by Bob Watson

    Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green has again blocked the Clean Water Commission's plans to vote on a proposed hog farm in Callaway County.

    Eichelberger Farms Inc., based in Wayland, Iowa, wants to operate the Callaway Farrowing LLC confined animal feeding operation, or CAFO, near Hatton, with 9,520 swine more than 55 pounds and another 800 swine under 55 pounds.

    Green on Tuesday issued a preliminary order prohibiting the commission and its chairman, Buddy Bennett, from holding a vote April 5, as currently scheduled.

    Green ordered the commission, the state Department of Natural Resources and Callaway Farrowing to file their answers to the petition seeking to prohibit a commission vote on or before April 24, and refrain from all actions until further order.

    The Friends of Responsible Agriculture — the group formed in July 2014 to oppose the proposed CAFO — asked Green for the latest action, noting the issue is listed on the April 5 commission agenda with a department recommendation "the Commission uphold the permit as originally issued by the Department."

    However, the Friends group's petition — for a court order blocking the commission vote — reminds the court the commission already has failed to approve the proposal twice.

    On Oct. 5, the petition noted, commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the proposed CAFO, but state law requires "all final orders or determinations or other final actions by the commission shall be approved in writing by at least four members of the commission."

    The group won a Dec. 21 order from Green that the vote failed to approve the proposal.

    At a Jan. 5 meeting, the commission voted 2-2 on the proposal — again failing to pass it.

    "It cannot be disputed that the legal effect of these two votes is that the Callaway Farrowing Permit MOGS10485 was not approved," Chesterfield attorney Stephen G. Jeffery wrote in his nine-page motion asking for the new order.

     Additionally, Callaway Farrowing should have asked the court to review the Oct. 5 vote but didn't, failing "to exhaust its available administrative remedies."

     Jeffrey also argued no state law gives the Clean Water Commission authority to conduct a second (or third) vote on the Callaway Farrowing permit.

    Note: Attorney Steven Jeffery is part of the BRWA legal team.
  • 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.


    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.


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

  • 25 Mar 2017 7:46 AM | Anonymous


    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.

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