Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

News


  • 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


  • 05 Mar 2017 7:54 AM | Anonymous


















    Joplin Globe



























    Fight for first national river goes on



    BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER — On May 24, 1962, conservationists meeting on the campus of the University of Arkansas chose a doctor named Neil Compton as president of their fledgling organization. The group called itself the Ozark Society, and one week later, Compton typed a letter to U.S. Sen. William Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat, signaling the group’s intention to fight for the preservation of the Buffalo River.

    “It is throughout its entire length spectacular and beautiful,” Compton wrote.

    The genesis for that letter — and the vote to organize the Ozark Society — stemmed from a hearing four months earlier in the community of Marshall before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Proponents of a dam organized as the Buffalo River Improvement Association had hijacked that hearing, Compton told Fulbright, manipulating it to favor their plan for two dams, one near the mouth and the other near Gilbert, and silencing “those of us who wish to save this stream.”

    I was but 5 weeks old. I wouldn’t discover the Buffalo for another couple of decades, after it had been protected as a national park and declared America’s first national river in 1972. I put in for my first trip at Mount Hersey, just downstream of Big Creek on the upper river. I floated for the afternoon, camped on a gravel bar across from a bluff and spent the night listening to whippoorwills. The river — spectacular and beautiful — did not disappoint.

    Looking back, I see now that even with that first trip to the Buffalo I began buying into an illusion that comes with a declaration of protection, be it a national park or wilderness designation, and that is the belief that because a place had been saved once, that it has been saved forever. In fact, the opposite is true. Opponents of protected places, be they dam builders, industrial agriculture or development, only have to win their fight once and the place is lost forever; supporters of protected places have to win every time a challenge arises.

    In 2012, 50 years after Compton wrote that letter, a new front opened in the battle for the Buffalo, 6 miles up that same Big Creek, where a permit was granted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for a large farm of 6,500 hogs, producing 2 million gallons annually of untreated waste.

    From the start, opponents of that permit as well as many of the hog farm’s neighbors shared a sentiment that Compton would have recognized: They suspected the process had been hijacked, in this case by a cozy relationship between regulators appointed by politicians and their allies in corporate agriculture, leading to a “done deal,” while those who opposed the hog operation were kept in the dark to silence them.

    While there have been modifications to the permit since, the river’s defenders haven’t had much of a chance to weigh in on the permit itself. Until now. The hog farm last year had to apply for a new permit to keep operating, and that opened a 30-day public comment period that ends March 17, and it includes a public hearing on Tuesday in Jasper, Arkansas, in the school auditorium.

    11 percent

    For me, more trips followed that first float, with friends, with family, then with kids, sometimes all of the above, sometimes alone. Floating the Buffalo today, with its towering river birches and sycamores, guided by herons, patrolled by bald eagles, it has the feel of a place protected. 

    It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially when poking about the bluffs and waterfalls on the upper river, canoeing past elk at Steel Creek, or getting an escort from river otters one evening while float camping along the lower river. 

    But that’s just the illusion. The reality is that this is a shoestring park, just a thin corridor of green space along much of the river. In fact, only 11 percent of the watershed of America’s first national river is protected. Outside that 11 percent, there are few guarantees.

    “I think people would assume that the first national river ever created would be afforded a little higher protection.”

    That’s what Gordon Watkins, president of Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, told me last week. His is one of the groups that is now leading the fight to protect the river from the hog farm, along with the Ozark Society and others.

    Different administrations have prohibited large industrial farms in the watershed, he noted, but administrations change. Today, if the permit is granted, the farrowing operation on Big Creek will house nearly 2,700 sows and hundreds of piglets at any given time, with two waste ponds holding 2.3 million gallons of hog manure that opponents worry might one day seep into the ground and then the river, or overflow and contaminate both the creek and the Buffalo. 

    Of even greater concern is what Watkins characterized as the “insidious creeping contamination” that could result when liquid waste from the hog farm is applied on dozens of nearby fields, all in the watershed of Big Creek. The owners of the farm say they have taken appropriate precautions and that regulatory safeguards exist, but many others don’t want to take that risk.

    Watkins is a farmer who lives along the Little Buffalo, the Buffalo’s biggest tributary and who also rents cabins to some of the 1.4 million visitors to the park each year.

    “It is going to continue to fall on citizens to hold their feet to the fire,” he said, referring to those responsible for issuing operating permits and their elected leaders.

    If history offers any lesson, it might be this: Attempts 55 years ago to sneak through a proposal ultimately backfired. They became the catalyst for conservation action — and not just for the Ozark Society. The Arkansas Chapter of the Nature Conservancy was organized in 1961 in response to proposals to dam the Buffalo; it recently bought more than 1,400 acres along Big Creek that it plans to protect. The latest fight for the Buffalo could be the catalyst for another generation of conservationists.

    Compton interview

    In 1992, after Bill Clinton was elected president, I spent part of a week in Northwest Arkansas asking people what we might expect of the new president. One of the people I interviewed was Compton, then living in Bentonville, Arkansas. It had been 30 years since that letter, 20 years since the Buffalo became America’s first national river. 

    Clinton had received the endorsement of major environmental organizations, and I was curious to see what Compton thought as an icon in the conservation community. He was direct, and beneath it, there seemed to be a frustration. He noted that there were 600 miles of streams in Northwest Arkansas that were unsafe for swimming because they were heavily contaminated with poultry and livestock runoff from industrial agriculture, much of it taking place while Clinton served as Arkansas attorney general and later governor.

    Compton said Clinton’s heart wasn’t in the environment but rather “in politics,” and therein was the problem. It was unwise to trust something so “spectacular and beautiful” but also so vulnerable and assailable to the political/regulatory machinery that is increasingly being captured by big-moneyed corporate interests. 

    And just as he signaled to Fulbright that the war was on, he signaled to his supporters as well that the war was not over, even though they won the battle in 1972.

    In his book, “The Battle for the Buffalo,” Compton wrote that its fate was still subject to whims of lawmakers.

    “For that reason, it must be constantly monitored by level-headed conservationists and defended from exploitation ...”

    “The challenge goes on,” Compton is also quoted as saying. “I challenge you to step forward to protect and care for the wild places you love best.”

    Andy Ostmeyer is metro editor at the Globe. His email address is aostmeyer@joplinglobe.com.

    River concerts

    • The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance will hold a 45th birthday party and benefit concert for the Buffalo National River on Sunday, March 12, at George’s Majestic Lounge, 519 W. Dixon St., in Fayetteville, Ark.

    New Orleans musician Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots, a six-piece band, will be performing at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. There is a $15 entry fee at the door. Net proceeds and other donations go to assist the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance.

    Sunpie, who is originally from Arkansas, served as a Buffalo National River naturalist for four years and as a ranger for the National Park Service for 30 years while also pursuing his musical career. He recently completed a 58-city tour spanning 34 countries, playing in the bands of both Paul Simon and Sting in their “Paul Simon and Sting Together” tour. He also has performed for more than 20 years at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and shared the stage at festivals with such artists as Willie Nelson, BB King, Dr. John, The Neville Brothers, Willie Dixon and Phish. 

    • National Park Radio, a modern folk group from Harrison, Ark., will perform at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Steel Creek Campground near Ponca on the Buffalo National River. 

    Bring lawn chairs and blankets. Food vendors will be on site. Buffalo National River Partners is sponsoring the event, which is part of an Earth Day celebration that also will include a cleanup float at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 23, from Pruitt to Hasty. 

    For more information or to register, visit Buffalo National River’s calendar of events at www.nps.gov/buff.

  • 04 Mar 2017 9:38 AM | Anonymous

    Voice for our river

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: March 4, 2017 at 2:35 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    Our state's Department of Environmental Quality (cough) will pretend like it's listening next Tuesday as we the people they supposedly serve cuss and discuss issuing a "no discharge" state permit for the controversial C&H Hog Farms.

    That would be a change to the current federal operating permit the agency wrongheadedly approved in the sacred Buffalo National River watershed.

    This agency sure didn't sufficiently allow for public input in 2012 when it quickly and quietly satisfied special interests and political connections by installing the mega-waste-manufacturing factory with more than 6,000 swine.

    You may recall that neither the former agency director nor the governor said they knew C&H's permit had been issued until it had been. Issuing it anyway turned out to be Democrat former Gov. Mike Beebe's biggest regret in office, he conceded. Now accountability for protecting the purity of the country's first national river falls on the shoulders of GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

    Any contamination of our Buffalo in the face of so many credible warnings will come on his watch.

    The period for public comment on renewing the C&H permit ends March 17. Many of you have asked what you can do. This is the time to get your position on record with the Department of Environmental Quality and the governor's office about removing this factory from such a wholly inappropriate landscape.

    Folks at the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance insist the original C&H permit was improperly and hastily approved because, disgracefully enough, it really was. This time, they're ready to express the relevant and significant points of fact that should have been aired five years ago come Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. in Jasper's high school.

    This group has amassed plenty of credible reasons for legitimately denying this permit now that the process is finally transparent.

    For instance: The permit alteration C&H owners have applied for would change from operating under a regularly reviewed federal regulation with a five-year expiration to a state version without expiration or review requirement. It's also being sought without making significant changes to the factory's method of discharging its enormous amounts of raw waste.

    The alliance contends the C&H application should be denied because changes in eliminating pollution from the factory's waste source have not been proposed or accomplished. The only significant change is to add another 599 acres on which to spread even more waste, potentially worsening any existing problems.

    In a news release, the alliance also contends, "While ADEQ and the applicant ... have gone to great lengths to avoid acknowledging that karst [fractured limestone] underlies this facility, scientific data clearly and unequivocally shows otherwise. Both the ERI studies ... in the fields and around the ponds, as well as the recent investigative drilling prove (as other reputable geologists have long contended and dye trace studies have shown) most of the spreading fields as well as the facility itself are situated atop karst."

    The alliance said the presence of karst should have led to a full environmental impact study, while triggering the requirement for a detailed geologic investigation because of the inordinate environmental risks that poses.

    The group also cites an alleged failure to comply with guidance in federal regulations involving possible excessive application of raw animal waste in spray fields, the failure to perform a "substantive evaluation of the impact of sudden breach or accidental release from waste impoundments" (lagoons), and the failure to "develop an emergency action plan which should be considered for waste impoundments where there is potential for significant impact from a breach or accidental release."

    In the same vein, the alliance alleges a "failure to account for proximity of a waste impoundment to sensitive groundwater areas, or to investigate groundwater flow direction, especially the failure to identify an improperly abandoned hand-dug well" less than 600 feet below the lagoons.

    I'll not cover the 80-something-page list of compelling and detailed arguments here. But rest assured, the Department of Environmental Quality will receive the full permanent record of what I believe is a very real potential calamity.

    It's most relevant to me that the group says the C&H permit also "fails to take into account evidence that discharge into Big Creek, and possibly the Buffalo National River, is already occurring."

    They explain that data collected by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team shows nitrate levels are consistently higher in Big Creek downstream of C&H fields than above them. The National Park Service, with concurrence of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, has requested that Big Creek now be declared as impaired due to low dissolved oxygen levels because of nutrient overloading. A recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey also confirmed low levels in Big Creek.

    But despite the evidence, our state's "environmental quality" folks haven't agreed that Big Creek is now an impaired stream. Suppose that's because they'd then have to determine the source of all those impairing nitrates? Oh, heaven forbid.

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

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

    Editorial on 03/04/2017

  • 01 Mar 2017 8:35 AM | Anonymous
    New "Beautiful Buffalo River" Action Committee Channels Clean River Agenda


    By JACQUELINE FROELICH  MAR 1, 2017


    KUAF Radio - Listen to the broadcast here

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