Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

News


  • 23 Sep 2017 8:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Future of the Buffalo 


    My wife and I have a place at Centerville south of Dardanelle. The Petit Jean River is less than a couple of miles away, and it runs dirty. I have asked some of the people that were raised in the area of Petit Jean River, and they tell me that the river ran clear when they were children about 60 years ago.


    A person can drive across the pontoon bridge or anywhere from there to the other side of Blue Mountain Lake and see the river runs brown from the runoff of farms with chicken litter being placed on pastures and cropland. When litter is placed on the land, vultures will land in fields, thinking something is dead in the fields. The other day the stench was so bad on the Petit Jean River that vultures were lined up on the bank of the river at Slaty Crossing.


    To make a long story short, I believe this is the future of the Buffalo River, with all the hog-waste runoff into the river, and most of the fish will go missing. As in the Petit Jean River, the Buffalo River will run brown.


    JOSEPH L. BERRY

    Redfield

  • 23 Sep 2017 8:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Hog farm permit decision put off; more data sought

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: September 23, 2017 at 2:59 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter this week to the owners of C&H Hog Farms asking for more documentation of their facility and plans as the department continues to evaluate the facility's permit application.


    The documents are already in the public record, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance board member Brian Thompson told the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission on Friday. Thompson called the request, which allows C&H 90 days to respond, a delay tactic and an "affront to public trust."


    "What's troubling is their giving C&H three months to provide documentation that's already in the public record," Thompson said. "This process could easily go on for another six months. The way it's going, maybe it could go on for another year."


    C&H Hog Farms is located near Mount Judea in Newton County and sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where the creek converges with the Buffalo National River.

    The farm has drawn the ire of people concerned about the risk its hog manure poses to the Buffalo River. The facility is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed, which has been home to several small hog farms. C&H is currently permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.


    C&H applied for a new permit April 7, 2016, and has been operating under an extension of its old permit. The department held off making a preliminary decision on the new permit until February, after months of a Pollution Control and Ecology Commission appeal on another permit that sought to apply manure from C&H on land in the Buffalo River's watershed. The department accepted comments on the new permit application through early April of this year.


    The department requested geological site investigations performed at the facility; construction plans for its waste management system; information, including which water bodies are located nearby, related to the facility's nutrient management plan; status of the facility's manure storage ponds and the operation and maintenance plan for the pond levee.


    Thompson delivered his statements during the public comment portion of the commission's meeting Friday, and no commissioners asked questions of Thompson.

    After the meeting, department officials said they had requested the documents so they could be a part of the public record in C&H's new permit application and in response to public comments on C&H's permit application.


    Department Director Becky Keogh said her agency did not have a deadline for deciding whether to issue a new permit to C&H Hog Farms.


    While the Arkansas Legislature passed a law earlier this year giving the department six months to decide on Regulation 5 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, C&H's permit is grandfathered into old law, according to Caleb Osborne, department associate director in charge of the office of water quality.


    The department has explored ways to reduce the time it takes to issue new permits and permit modifications, but Keogh said C&H's permit was exceptional, given its controversy.


    "This is a permit that is going to take time," she said.

    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 it 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 would be applied over certain sites as fertilizer.

    Metro on 09/23/2017


  • 20 Sep 2017 1:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Greenwire


    Audit slams flagging EPA bid to curb farm emissions  

    Sean Reilly, E&E News reporter


    Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2017


    More than a decade after agreeing to keep tabs on emissions from large-scale animal feedlots, U.S. EPA isn't close to getting the job done, the agency's inspector general said in a new report, which found the delay is undercutting the broader effort to regulate pollution from that sector.

    As of this spring, EPA had not published any emissions estimating methodologies for such "animal feeding operations" and still had no work plan or timetable for completing them, according to the report, released yesterday by Inspector General Arthur Elkins' office.

    The result: Individual operations, which can produce significant amounts of ammonia and other hazardous air pollutants, haven't come up with the data needed to determine whether they should put pollution controls in place or report their emissions to emergency responders, the report said. And until EPA officials finish work on the estimating methods, they are refusing to act on citizen petitions to regulate emissions from animal feeding operations, often known as AFOs, on the grounds that the methods "are needed to inform the agency's decision-making," the report said.

    Among other recommendations, Elkins' office urged EPA to launch "comprehensive systematic planning" for developing the needed estimating methods and then publicly release a schedule for issuing them.

    In a written response attached to the report, acting EPA air chief Sarah Dunham agreed with the recommendations and said the agency expects to set the schedules next spring.

    While most feed operations are relatively small, the Agriculture Department estimates there are about 18,000 that may raise thousands of cattle, hogs and other animals in tightly confined quarters. Air pollution can come from decaying manure and animal feed, potentially posing health risks to nearby communities.

    Unlike with industrial sources, however, there's not necessarily a straightforward way of keeping track of the resulting emissions. In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that accurate estimates were needed to determine how much pollution such agriculture operations were putting out and what kind of controls might be needed.

    After more than two years of talks with producer groups, EPA in 2005 agreed to use monitoring data from an industry-funded study to develop the emissions estimating methods. At that point, agency officials expected to start publishing the final methods in 2009, with individual AFOs soon after following up to calculate their emissions, apply for applicable Clean Air Act permits and install any necessary pollution controls.

    That timetable turned out to be wildly optimistic, the inspector general report indicated. The industry monitoring study took two years longer than originally expected; EPA had also not accounted for the time needed to get approval from an in-house board for agreements to protect individual producers from lawsuits or other enforcement actions for alleged violations until the new system was in place.

    Yet another hang-up emerged when EPA's Science Advisory Board, a body of independent experts, found in 2013 that a draft version of the estimating methods for some pollutants and sources wouldn't provide an accurate gauge of overall emissions. The board urged more work.

    Since then, the entire enterprise has essentially been dead in the water, the inspector general's report suggested.

    EPA has not revised the draft estimating methods or come up with additional approaches for other pollutant combinations. After key employees retired, moreover, "the agency in recent years did not have staff with combined expertise in agricultural emissions, air quality and statistical analysis," the report said.

    Not only does EPA still lack a good handle of the amount of pollution the sector is producing, but the enforcement protections for about 14,000 feeding operations that participated in the original agreement remain in force more than six years after they were intended to expire. Given that EPA still lacks reliable methods, the report said that "it was difficult to estimate how many facilities could be exceeding" emissions benchmarks for the Clean Air Act and other laws.

    But in monitoring conducted as part of one 2003 enforcement case, EPA found that two large egg-laying operations were producing annual particulate matter emissions of 700 tons and 550 tons, respectively, far above the 250-ton-per-year permitting threshold, the inspector general found.

    Twitter: @SeanatGreenwire Email: sreilly@eenews.net

    GREENWIRE HEADLINES — Wednesday, September 20, 2017 

       

  • 17 Sep 2017 7:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Don't forget hog farm


    With all the attention focused on the environmental tragedy in Texas, we in Arkansas are losing sight of the smaller but significant one here, C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed. I want to thank Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Mike Masterson for keeping this issue alive and before the public.


    The hog farm is seeking a new permit to increase the territory that it can use to spray millions of gallons of raw hog manure. It appears the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is ignoring all the evidence to the contrary and is wrongheadedly considering a new permit. It should be revoking the old permit and closing this hog farm and its manure fields down.


    The loss of the farm and its few low-wage jobs will be nothing compared to the economic and environmental loss if the pollution to the river is not stopped and reversed.


    Gentle readers, be in touch with the Department of Environmental Quality and express your views. Thanks again, Mike.


    JAY FULBRIGHT III

    Malvern

  • 17 Sep 2017 7:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    More stepping up

    Buffalo battlers

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: September 17, 2017 at 1:51 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    As the state of Arkansas waits for the Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) to complete its review of the permit renewal for the hog factory in our precious Buffalo National River watershed, a lot of public interest in protecting the environment has continued to grow across the state.


    For example, Little Rock attorney Richard Mays, who represents a consortium of environmental groups in legal actions involving the factory's grossly misplaced location, told me a relatively new statewide nonprofit called the Arkansas Environmental Defense Alliance has developed. Its purpose is to monitor and protect the Arkansas environment through policy advocacy and other necessary actions.


    I was impressed by the quality of the board members who will lead this organization in providing public oversight over environmental matters such as potential contamination of the Buffalo from constant spraying of raw hog water on pastures along Big Creek, a major tributary of the national river.


    My hope is these men and women will be ready, willing and quick to act in any way feasible, up to and including the courts, when they have reason to believe our waterbodies or other areas of our environment are threatened.

    Readers likely have little desire to wade through a list of names. But I'm sharing most of them all the same because their standing in our state carries enormous influence, especially as a group. And very few other states have such an organization devoted to serving the environment and as a clearing house for citizens with related problems locally.


    The alliance board consists of Mays, Joe Nix (longtime water quality expert at Ouachita Baptist University), Don Richardson (head of the Natural Resources Commission), Dan Flowers (former director of the state Highway Department), Rob Leflar (law professor at UA), Richard Davies (former director of the state Department of Parks and Tourism), Richard Mason (former commissioner with the state's Pollution Control and Ecology Commission), Sam Cooke (Batesville optometrist and former president of Friends of the White and Norfolk Rivers), Nancy DeLamar and Kay Kelley Arnold (both former directors of the Nature Conservancy of Arkansas), Texarkana Attorney Lance Lee, and former Paragould state Sen. Robert Thompson.


    The alliance is co-sponsoring an environmental policy conference at the Clinton Library on Oct. 27, along with the Clinton School of Public Policy, Arkansas Policy Panel, Sierra Club and Audubon Arkansas.

    "I think the agenda is pretty cutting edge in regard to the topics--particularly in view of current developments," said Mays.


    Meanwhile, in a development related to the hog factory, Mays said he, on behalf of Buffalo River champion Carol Bitting of Jasper, appealed the permit issued to Ellis Campbell doing business as EC Farms. That permit would allow C&H Hog Farm wastes to now be spread over 600+ acres that EC Farms controls in the nearby Little Buffalo River watershed.


    Ellis Campbell and Richard Campbell of C&H are related, and the 600 acres in question until four years ago served as a swine-farrowing operation for about 300 hogs.


    The judge will decide if a new permit is required for C&H to begin using the EC property to spray the karst-laden region with even more raw and potent hog waste.

    "We had a hearing before Circuit Judge John Putman in Jasper last week," said May. "I thought it went pretty well. The judge seems very conscientious. We are awaiting a decision. He could reverse it and send it back to the commission/[Department of Environmental Quality], or affirm it. Then we would have to appeal to the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court."


    The sad truth is in this age where even tax-supported public agencies can seem unable or unwilling to respond to obvious public problems and needs due to political pressures and/or limited resources, a group such as the Environmental Defense Alliance will serve as an invaluable source of advice, answers and action. I know I'll be using them.


  • 12 Sep 2017 10:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fran Alexander: National treasures in peril

    Americans cannot afford erosion of park lands

    By Fran Alexander

    Posted: September 12, 2017 at 1 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    With our country up to its nose holes in water in the east and fires burning everything in their paths in the west, to say we are distracted right now is putting it mildly. Quietly, however, disorienting political maneuvers, many in the form of executive orders, have also been barreling down on everything environmental. From shrinking or dismantling the EPA's work force to the elimination of projects, reports, and especially regulations created for environmental protections, the ruling party in Congress is eviscerating decades of science and policy work.


    The root causes of the physical devastation produced by natural phenomena can be argued until we're all extinct. But, what we humans willingly do or allow to be done to our world is easier to recognize. Amidst much of the morass left from political hatchet swinging are the ravaged protections of our national parks and monuments. Referenced by many as "America's greatest idea," our public lands are juicy plumbs dangling in front of profiteers eager to reap minerals, timber, and recreational franchises (including hotels) from public grasp for private gain. None of their activities protect or preserve our natural treasures, and they are not progress. They are destruction.


    It took generations of grassroots work and political will, which often has to first be bent by public will, to establish the national parks, monuments, rivers, etc., existing in our country today. As a child who was lucky to have parents show me many of these special places, I remember the awe I felt when in the presence of Yellowstone's geysers, the mighty giants in Sequoia National Park, the Grand Canyon's eroded walls of geologic time, Yosemite's 2,425-foot cascade, and crevasses of ice gluing mountains together at Glacier National Park. I think these experiences are what made me who I am today.


    All of these places are bigger than humans can ever pretend to be and contain landscapes grander than almost any others on earth. These places explain to the human psyche that humans are just part of this world, not separate masters over it. Without awe of the paradise our species is fortunate enough to be part of, we tend to only value what is human-made, maybe because that is all we know.

    Political battles are value battles. When the functioning roles of water, land, air, snow, weather, wildlife, plants, etc., are not made a part of how we live, we are ignorant of what it actually takes to survive. We develop a "Who needs it?" attitude, and we substitute buildings and cookie-cutter outdoor spaces for the real things that make our own ecosystems work.


    Folks without drinking water, but wading chest deep through chemical and sewage-laden flood waters last week in Houston may now have a clue of what clean water means to survival. But, without a context of where life's basics originate, even desperate disaster victims may think their water needs can be solved with enough plastic bottles of the stuff.


    Placed on a value spectrum, politically and culturally, are our nation's parks and other public places. Trump's Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has been recommending sizing down some of the national monument lands. The National Resources Defense Council (www.nrdc.org/onearth/week 21) says Zinke, "plans to increase 'public-private partnerships' -- code for privatizing the management of our national park system." They point out that "our national parks are a public good and therefore should be publicly managed."


    Conservation International's article "The worlds' national parks are not as secure as we think," discusses PADDD, which stands for "protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement [the loss of legal protection for an entire national park or other protected area]." Also, the National Parks Conservation Association lists numerous park issues at: https://www.npca.org/advocacy. For a list with pictures, enter "There are 27 national monuments threatened by Trump's order, " online to see the Huffington Post's coverage of these places.

    Putting our public lands at risk is sold to voters on the premise that the individual states should say how these properties that we all own are managed, sized or sold to the highest bidders (or lowest for political cronies and mineral extractors). Some of these robber barons, like Utah's not-running-for-reelection Jason Chaffetz, have had the audacity of saying such sales would lower the national debt and that these lands "serve no purpose to taxpayers."


    That fella, and his ilk, need to do a little research into the economic values inherent in jobs, tourism and public health related to our public lands. He's a darned fool.

    Commentary on 09/12/2017

  • 10 Sep 2017 8:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    NWAOnline


    After 42 years, Arkansas has not carried out plan to protect state waters from degradation 

    Federal act’s quality standards to protect rivers, lakes run aground in Arkansas


    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: September 10, 2017 at 3:43 a.m.
    Updated: September 10, 2017 at 3:43 a.m.

    Credit: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/RYAN MCGEENEY
    Sarah Clem


    More than 40 years after the passage of the federal Clean Water Act, Arkansas remains one of only two states that hasn't carried out the provision that protects a state's most important waters from degrading.

    Arkansas has not adopted an implementation plan for "anti-degradation," a major provision of the act's water quality standards that refers to the effort to stop rivers and lakes from deteriorating.


    Deterioration can occur in many forms, such as when a body of water has too much dirt or when nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen build up and form algae.

    Anti-degradation is one of four parts for the water quality standards outlined in the act. The others are "designated uses," which requires states to appoint each water body a particular use, such as fishing or swimming; "water quality criteria," which requires states to adopt standards for substances in water bodies; and "general policies," which refers to policies a state can implement related to water quality.

    "This has been known for a long time that [anti-degradation] is an integral component, something they have to do," said Jessie Green, a former senior ecologist in the water quality planning section for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and current director of White River Waterkeeper, an advocacy group that works to protect and preserve the White River and its tributaries.

    "We definitely have not been trying to maintain the water quality that we have in the state," Green added.


    Environmental advocates say the anti-degradation provision protects the nation's scenic waterways, but business representatives say implementation of the provision is unlikely to change much other than to require companies and utilities to pay more for engineering studies on cleaner waste technology and disposal methods when applying for discharge permits.


    Cleaner alternative disposal may still allow for some degradation, they say, and water quality standards already protect a water body from degrading past the point of maintaining its designated use.


    "I seriously question whether implementation of anti-degradation policy ... would have changed the outcome of very many permits," said Allan Gates, a Mitchell Williams attorney who has worked with utilities and businesses on water issues.

    But in rare instances, Gates said, anti-degradation processes would create another point that opponents could use to argue against issuing a water discharge permit.

    Only Arkansas and Nevada do not have plans to implement anti-degradation strategy for state waters, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Arkansas has an anti-degradation policy outlined in its Regulation 2 water rules, but it has no accompanying plan to implement that policy. The Clean Water Act requires an implementation plan, and the EPA has asked the state for such a plan for years.

    According to the act, once a state or tribe has determined what a particular water body's use should be -- such as a fishing or drinking source -- then the state or tribe is required to take action to prevent any degradation that might prevent the water body from being used for the stated purpose. 


    The anti-degradation provision of the act says states and tribes also determine the quality of a body of water by labeling it Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 (the highest). The higher quality the water, the more degradation needs to be considered in the permitting process.


    Tier 3 waters, typically thought of as water bodies with exceptional recreational or ecological roles, aren't supposed to degrade at all.

    Tier 2 waters are considered "high quality," with economic, public health or ecological value, according to the EPA. That means that when significant degradation is expected for such waters, water discharge permit applicants must offer an analysis of alternative discharge methods that would degrade the water body less or explain why economic or social conditions justify a more degrading discharge method.

    Tier 1 waters need only to maintain their designated uses.


    States and tribes must adopt anti-degradation policies, and the Clean Water Act further requires an implementation plan for those policies, according to an EPA spokesman.


    Experts say an anti-degradation implementation plan would keep clean waters clean but would not improve dirty waters. Without it, clean waters can degrade, just not below the absolute minimum threshold required to maintain their designated uses.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is in charge of developing an implementation plan, which officials say they've been working on for years. More recently, the department formed an internal working group of water quality and technology staff members that has been meeting for "several months," said Caleb Osborne, a department deputy director who oversees the water office.

    Sarah Clem, the department's water quality planning branch manager, said in November that the state evaluated each permit application for potential water degradation but that the department doesn't have an official policy in writing. The department calculates the expected discharge's effect and compares the results with the state's water quality standards and the EPA's health standards. That information is then used to determine permit limits that must be followed to protect a water body's designated use.


    The department doesn't fully categorize water bodies or require certain facilities' permit applications to evaluate the potential cost and discharge of alternative construction plans, Green said. That's important, conservationists say, because adding evaluations can enhance the transparency of the public permitting process.

    Anti-degradation requirements also provide a safety net where water quality standards are inadequate, Green said.


    An evaluation of the proposed permit and alternatives might have changed the terms of what the PECO Processing Plant in Randolph County was allowed to discharge into the Black River, Green said. Part of the Black River, a tributary of the White River, is considered impaired because of its low levels of dissolved oxygen, but the permit doesn't regulate all of the nutrients that could come from the plant and could reduce oxygen levels, Green said. Dissolved oxygen is critical for aquatic life.

    There are a lot of good reasons for restricting a facility's discharge above what is absolutely required by water standards, said Albert Ettinger, an attorney who has worked with conservation groups across the country on Clean Water Act issues.

    "One is we're not all that happy with our water quality standards," he said. "They're not that protective."


    If implemented fully, Green said, anti-degradation would likely require the designation of tributaries of major rivers, such as tributaries of the Buffalo or White rivers, as "high quality waters," or Tier 2 waters.

    OTHER STATES


    Arkansas and Nevada are the only states without implementation plans 42 years after the Clean Water Act was first amended to include anti-degradation policy.

    Implementation plans were explicitly required by a vote of Congress in 1987, but many states adopted plans only within the past decade. Further, environmental advocates argue that many states' plans are incomplete, protecting only some water bodies or implementing only some of the anti-degradation rules.


    Missouri and Iowa have anti-degradation implementation plans, developed years ago after a lawsuit and the threat of a lawsuit. Environmental workers in those states believe the plans have kept clean waters pristine but are skeptical the plans have prevented pollution or would have prevented any facilities from getting permits.

    Every permit is already intended to maintain a water body's designated use, said Adam Schnieders, water quality resources coordinator at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.


    "It's a minimization rather than prevention, if you will," said John Rustige, environmental engineer at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. "A facility is going to go into a certain place, and anti-deg doesn't prevent that facility from being constructed. What that says is, 'Are you going to be able to do a better job or not?'"

    In both states, permit applicants are required to evaluate alternatives to their proposals and select the cleanest options that are within a certain percentage of the cost of the original proposals. In Missouri, the permit applicant must use the cleaner alternative even if it costs up to 20 percent more.

    About one-third of applicants end up selecting cleaner technologies in Missouri after the evaluation process, Rustige said. He estimated that engineering fees range from $5,000 to $10,000 for the extra evaluation.


    "So we're preserving streams and lakes a little bit with this process," Rustige said. "On the other end, there is a bit of a cost to doing this."

    But because a permit applicant isn't necessarily required to pick a technology that won't degrade at all, an anti-degradation plan is sort of a misnomer, according to Jim Malcolm, an engineer with FTN Associates.

    "It doesn't stop degradation, but it doesn't let it occur willy-nilly, that's for dang sure," said Malcolm, who is one of seven representatives on the department's working group of industry experts.


    STATUS IN ARKANSAS

    In Arkansas, anti-degradation has been debated within the Department of Environmental Quality and outside it.


    For years, the EPA has asked the department for clear language on how the state implements its anti-degradation policy, according to correspondence with the department obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


    The state in 2013 submitted a draft Continuing Planning Process document for water policy that the EPA said was inadequate, in part because of the lack of an implementation plan for anti-degradation. The EPA also has listed the development of an anti-degradation implementation plan among its priorities for the state's use of federal funding in recent fiscal years.


    A working group of utility and business groups for more than a year has provided input to the Department of Environmental Quality on the state's water regulations. Those regulations are reported to the EPA in the Continuing Planning Process document.

    Green, now-retired department water division director Ellen Carpenter, and a representative of the Beaver Water District drinking water utility have asked to be a part of the group, but department officials have said the group is informal and that the regulations will be opened for broader public comment later in the year.


    The group has not discussed addressing anti-degradation, department officials said, and the department will consult a yet-to-be-formed working group on anti-degradation. After that, the Continuing Planning Process will go out for stakeholder review, likely in early 2018, department officials said.


    The Continuing Planning Process hasn't been updated since 2000, when it was updated to include an anti-degradation policy but not implementation of that policy.

    Clem said in November that the state's Continuing Planning Process needs to include expanded information on anti-degradation. But she and Osborne disagree on whether the department is accounting for degradation in its permitting process.

    "In the process of developing a permit, we're ensuring that the criteria are met in stream," Clem said.


    Osborne said it is too early to speculate on what the biggest benefits of having an implementation plan are, but he expects that having one would enhance the transparency of the permitting process.

    Allowing transparency is pivotal, Green said, because it would allow the public to have greater input on a proposed permit.

    "That's a component that we don't have now."

    Metro on 09/10/2017


  • 05 Sep 2017 12:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Watch the full KY3-TV video: http://www.ky3.com/content/news/Hog-farm-battle-set-for-new-round-in-court-442748053.html


    A new courtroom battle is scheduled to start tomorrow over a large hog farm in Newton County, Arkansas. 


    We recently visited with one of the women behind the five-year-long fight. She's motivated to protect our nation's first national river. 


    Carol Bitting is known as one of the three grandmas who combined forces to fight a permit that allowed a hog farm near the Buffalo National River. 

    She says, "It is so vital to our well-being. It's important to our nation."

    Carol moved onto her little piece of Buffalo River heaven 16 years ago. 
    But, she now says, "I wouldn't get in it today."


    It all turned sour five years ago with a swine operation. Carol's biggest worry isn't the pigs. It's the poop from a couple thousand animals. 


    Carol says, "There are many other locations that would be suitable for a large confined animal feeding operation, but not the Buffalo River Watershed."

    Just one farm there can spread up to 6 and a half million gallons of liquid animal waste each year. The stuff is spread over some 500 acres.


    It does put nutrients back into the soil. The farm operator didn't answer our calls or emails for a new interview. But, he told us in 2013 they follow regulations there and love the land and water too.


    Jason Henson said, "We all like to hunt and fish and we growed up in Big Creek and Buffalo."


    But, Carol believes the liquid waste can quickly travel down into the thin Swiss cheese-like land in the area. She believes bad stuff will wind up lurking just below the Buffalo's surface.


    Carol says, "We the people, we need to stand up and police them and let them know this is what we want. It's set aside for us and we want to protect it. If we go to the Supreme Court, we're ready."


    Carol is fighting to overturn one of the permits that allows the current operation. The court hearing on September 6th is scheduled to last 2 hour

  • 17 Aug 2017 1:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    JBS is the company which owns the contract with C&H Hog Farms.


    Read the full story here 



    Brazil’s JBS S.A., the world’s largest meat-processing company, reported a sharp drop in net profits for the second quarter of 2017. According to the meat-industry website MeatingPlace.com, the company reported a drop of approximately 80 percent in net profits from the same quarter last year.

  • 05 Aug 2017 9:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    MASTERSON ONLINE: Ignoring Big Creek

    By Mike Masterson

    This article was published August 5, 2017 at 2:08 a.m.


    You’d think our state Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) eventually would overcome the need to play politics when it comes to the controversial hog factory it quickly and quietly allowed into the Buffalo National River watershed four years ago.

    After all, this agency allegedly exists to enhance environmental quality rather than lobby for the benefits of domestic animal husbandry.

    Yet it continues down the path of protecting and promoting the factory with 6,500 swine. It’s a place that continuously sprays millions of gallons of raw hog waste onto a limited number of fields along and around Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo flowing just 6 miles downstream.

    In the latest example of the department’s backflips to accommodate C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea, the agency omitted Big Creek from the state’s latest federal list of “impaired waterbodies” even though extensive testing has shown that stream is more than deserving to be near the top of that EPA-required listing.

    Many people believe as I do: The Department of Environmental Quality hierarchy (and perhaps above them) find reasons not to include Big Creek because being cited as impaired would mean the agency would have to aggressively discover the source of the documented contamination. And who knows? That investigation might lead right to this misplaced hog factory operation that has been so championed politically by the agency, the Farm Bureau and Pork Producers.

    So the department submitted its 303(d) list of streams to the EPA minus Big Creek. And the agency seemed pleasantly relieved when the EPA approved its submission after stalling for four years. Such lists are required from states every two years under the Clean Water Act.


    A news account by reporter Emily Walkenhorst said the EPA until this month had not acted on our state’s past four consecutive impaired-waters lists. The EPA finally took action after approving and disapproving of elements of Arkansas’ water-quality standards last fall, said Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh.

    Keogh said she was “pleased” with the action, while Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the decision to remove many of the state’s waters once listed as impaired underscores efforts to “protect and enhance our natural environment.”

    When it comes to adequately protecting and enhancing the Buffalo National River, I suspect many Arkansans strongly disagree.

    Fisheries scientist Teresa Turk has been studying contamination in Big Creek and the Buffalo for years. “I’m disappointed science did not prevail in the face of large corporate agriculture politics on the state and federal level. The state ignored high E. coli levels collected by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team that met the definition of impairment in Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Regulation 2. In addition, low dissolved oxygen readings exceeding standards were recorded by the U.S. Geologic Survey on Big Creek in 15-minute intervals. That provided greater resolution and accuracy than any other monitored streams in Arkansas. Yet [the Department of Environmental Quality] stated they didn’t have a way to use or assess such high quality and frequent information.”

    Turk said for practically all other streams, the state agency doesn’t have enough relevant information. Yet in the case of Big Creek, where the data showed impairment, it declined to use that information and declared instead that Big Creek didn’t have sufficient data. This is a stream that has more data collected than any other place in Arkansas.

    The department’s “decision to not list Big Creek undermines its credibility as a reputable scientific agency,” Turk continued. “In this case, politics has trumped good science and good logic. You can’t spread almost 3 million gallons of pig poop containing pathogens and phosphorus every year in a karst area next to a stream and not have serious stream degradation.”

    Duane Woltjen with the Ozark Highlands Trail Association told me Keogh responded to the Buffalo National River’s request for an impaired listing for Big Creek with the same “insufficient evidence” excuse when the river sought that designation months ago.

    “As I recall, the years of evidence we have was from the Buffalo National Park lab, which Keogh claimed was not certified for the first few years before becoming certified two years ago. But [the Department of Environmental Quality] says five years of consistent and persistent impairment is required to be officially listed. Under that criteria, this means two years are down, three to go, for [the agency] to admit Big Creek is impaired,” said Woltjen.

    Geosciences professor emeritus John Van Brahana, who more than any other has studied water quality and subsurface flow around the hog factory since it began operating in 2013, believes omitting Big Creek “appears to be a deliberate ignoring of facts presented by many researchers who have responded to the external expert team hired by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team to address the karst and groundwater affecting Big Creek and the Buffalo.”

    “The data we have from Big Creek, and especially the springs and groundwater that drain the spreading fields that flow into Big Creek and other Buffalo tributaries show anomalously high values of isotopes of dissolved trace metals (extreme high flow values), E. coli values in ephemeral streams draining into Big Creek during storm events, extremely high algae concentrations weeks to months after the spreading of feces and urine … and dye-tracing results that showed travel during high-water conditions to contiguous stream basins and the Buffalo from sites near spreading fields.

    “Most Arkansas high school students whose parents are real farmers would be well aware of problems caused by industrial agriculture to water quality downstream, although [the Department of Environmental Quality] has developed a recent record of ignoring these facts by altering rules and regulations,” claims Brahana, saying the department “raised the ante by requiring five years of data for an ‘impaired streams’ listing, thereby buying time and satisfying the ag-industrial lobby.”

    These occurrences don’t protect Big Creek or the Buffalo, says Brahana, nor do they follow peer-reviewed science that has raised a multitude of questions. He asks, “when science conducted by numerous independent, interdisciplinary scientists indicates problems exist, what’s the honest rationale behind Arkansas’ protective agency of the state’s environment requiring five years of data before it addresses or fixes it?”

    Finally, Gordon Watkins, who heads the Buffalo National River Watershed Alliance, said his organization was “disappointed but not surprised by [the Department of Environmental Quality]’s failure to list Big Creek as impaired when facts show otherwise.”

    He was surprised EPA Director Scott Pruitt visited the state and appeared before a select group of ag interests at the Poultry Commission offices rather than in public. “The signal it sends is not encouraging to those who feel Big Ag is having an inordinate negative impact on water quality, and suggests it will only get worse,” said Watkins. “But we’ve been active participants in current [department] methodology meetings.

    “And we just submitted Big Creek data, as did the National Park Service, for the 2018 Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report. That data will be used for the EPA’s 2018 303(d) list. We’re hopeful [the Department of Environmental Quality] won’t eliminate this data on another technicality and Big Creek finally will be rightly acknowledged as being impaired, and that corrective action will be taken.”

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

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