Buffalo River 


  • 12 Apr 2017 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    The Neuse River Is Sick, and Advocates Blame the Pork and Poultry Industries 

    By Ken Fine

    Travis Graves has hundreds of pictures that he says prove that over the last five years, hundreds of millions of fish have washed ashore along North Carolina's Neuse River, which runs from northwest Durham into the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. Those fish kills, the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper says, can be traced to algae blooms that feed off nitrogen and phosphorus.

    So last fall, when Hurricane Matthew flooded more than a dozen swine lagoons and several chicken farms in eastern North Carolina—all located within the Neuse River's hundred-year floodplain—sending millions of gallons of nitrogen-rich hog waste and phosphorus-laden chicken excrement into the river, river advocates hit their panic buttons.

    The state's industrial hog farms were already damaging the Neuse by spraying waste onto fields near the river and its tributaries, they allege. But now, the river is in serious trouble.

    On Tuesday morning, American Rivers listed the Neuse, along with Cape Fear River, as the seventh most endangered river in the United States. In its report—"America's Most Endangered Rivers 2017," which highlights "ten rivers whose fate will be decided in the coming year"—the national river conservation organization blamed the millions of gallons of untreated hog feces and urine that North Carolina hog farmers spray onto fields that drain into streams and groundwater, which contaminate the Neuse with nitrogen, antibiotics, and bacteria, as well Hurricane Matthew-related flooding that spewed animal waste into the Neuse.

    And the problem's only going to get worse.

    "The threat these facilities and their antiquated waste operations pose to our waters will only increase as the effects of climate change become more prevalent and North Carolina is subjected to more frequent powerful storms," the report states.

    Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, which owns the vast majority of the more than two hundred thousand hogs living inside the Neuse floodplain, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

    There are currently sixty-two swine facilities that house more than 235,000 hogs and at least thirty poultry farms that house nearly two million chickens located within the Neuse's floodplain. Many of them, Graves says, were underwater in the days after Matthew battered the eastern part of the state.

    "I saw about a dozen lagoons under water, and probably another ten poultry facilities where the barns were underwater," Graves says. "Even if the lagoons weren't breached, you could see that they had been completely flushed. The water in the lagoons was the same color as the floodwaters around it, not that usual pink color you see. All of that ended up right in the Neuse River and is contributing to that excessive nutrient pollution."

    Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Star believes there's a solution. After Hurricane Floyd battered eastern North Carolina in 1999, the legislature authorized the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to provide $18.7 million for forty-three voluntary buyouts of hog and poultry operations located inside the Neuse's floodplain.

    "Thirty-two of those would have flooded during Matthew," Starr says. "Think about that. That's a ton of waste that we prevented from getting into that river."

    After Matthew, advocates are urging legislators to do the same thing.

    In its report, American Rivers argues that "there is a simple and commonsense action that can be taken to reduce the threat to our water resources and communities": simply remove hog and chicken facilities from the Neuse floodplain.

    "The opportunity to accomplish this may never be better than it is now, in the first legislative session following Hurricane Matthew," the report says. "The General Assembly must include funding to restore the Swine Buyout program and include language expanding it to all [concentrated animal feeding operations] in the floodplain as part of the Hurricane Matthew recovery bill."

    "You shut down. Here's your money. It's that simple," Starr says. "And I want to be really clear. This is a voluntary program that is there for these facilities. After Hurricane Floyd, one hundred thirty facilities applied. This was a wanted program."

    The N.C. Pork Council is amenable to such an approach. A spokesman told The News & Observer that the industry "would be supportive of voluntary efforts for a buyout."

    Still, it's unclear whether the legislature will take the Neuse's place on Americans Rivers' list seriously enough to act. But Graves says that by this summer, the repercussions of Hurricane Matthew flooding the hog lagoons and chicken farms near the Neuse will be too intense to ignore.

    "I have serious concerns over what kind of fish kill numbers we're going to see this summer," he says. "I'm anticipating it to be the worst summer for fish kills in the last five years. I'm really hoping this will take the industry in North Carolina out of its bubble a little bit and give it a national reference point. Not only is the river threatened, but also on a nationwide scale, this river is very much endangered."

    And if the legislature fails to act?

    "We're going to continue to see nutrient pollution in the lower Neuse. It's going to increase, as it has for the last thirty years," Graves says. "And that increase is going to continue to fish kills, which is going to hurt tourism, it's going to hurt the commercial fishing industry, and, ultimately, it's going to hurt the future health of our rivers. Ultimately, it could get to the point where places like Kinston and Goldsboro that draw their drinking water directly out of the Neuse River, we'll start to see nitrogen levels that are hazardous to humans." 

    This article appeared in print with the headline "The Neuse Is Sick."

  • 11 Apr 2017 4:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Eco Watch


    Court Orders EPA to Close Loophole, Factory Farms Required to Report Toxic Pollution

    By Waterkeeper Alliance

    The DC Circuit Court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to close a loophole that has allowed hazardous substances released into the environment by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to go unreported.

    "We applaud the DC Circuit Court's clear decision to enforce this vital environmental safeguard to protect public safety," said Earthjustice attorney Jonathan Smith, who helped argue the case before the court.

    "In the words of the court, the risk of air emissions from CAFOs 'isn't just theoretical; people have become seriously ill and even died' from these emissions. But the public cannot protect itself from these hazardous substances if CAFOs aren't required to report their releases to the public. The loophole also prevented reporting of these toxics to local and state responders and the court held that plainly violated the law."

    CAFOs are large-scale livestock facilities that confine large numbers of animals in relatively small spaces. A large CAFO may contain upward of 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 125,000 chickens. Such facilities generate a massive amount of urine and feces, which is commonly liquefied and either stored under the facility or nearby in open-air lagoons. This waste is known to release high levels of toxic pollutants like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the environment.

    The court's decision closes a loophole that exempted CAFOs from the same pollutant reporting required of other industries to ensure public safety. Prior to the promulgation of this loophole at the end of the Bush administration in 2008, federal law long required CAFOs, like all other industrial facilities, to notify government officials when toxic pollution levels exceeded public safety thresholds.

    "Corporate agricultural operations have always been well-equipped to report on hazardous substances," said Abel Russ of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Now they will once again be required to do so."

    This ruling is the latest turn in Earthjustice's advocacy on behalf of environmental and animal advocacy groups including Waterkeeper AllianceHumane Society of the United StatesSierra ClubCenter for Food Safety and Environmental Integrity Project.

    "People have a right to know if CAFOs are releasing hazardous substances that can pose serious risks of illness or death into the air near their homes, schools, businesses and communities," said Kelly Foster, senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance.

    "This ruling ensures that the public will be able to obtain this information in the future and will hopefully spur EPA to start responding when hazardous substances reach toxic levels."

    Nearly three-quarters of the nation's ammonia air pollution come from CAFOs. Once emitted into the air, this ammonia then redeposits on land or water, adding to nitrogen pollution and water quality impairments in places like the Chesapeake Bay.

    "CAFO waste pollutes our air and waterways and creates dangerous food pathogens. This decision forces these operations to be transparent about their environmental impact," said Paige Tomaselli of the Center for Food Safety.

    CAFOs can be terrible air polluters. People who live near them often suffer from constant exposure to foul odors and the toxic effects of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Low levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and high levels can be fatal.

    "This safeguard isn't just about protecting the environment; it's about making entire communities safe for the people who live in them," said Sierra Club staff attorney Katie Schaefer.

    Unsurprisingly, CAFO pollution also severely impacts the animals raised at the CAFO.

    "Animal factories force billions of animals to suffer dangerously high levels of toxic air pollution day after day for their entire lives," said Humane Society of The United States' Chief Counsel Jonathan Lovvorn. "This ruling helps shine a light on the horrors of factory farms and the hidden costs to animals, people and the environment."

  • 11 Apr 2017 4:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KUAF Radio/NPR

    American Rivers Designates the Buffalo National River Among the Most Endangered 


    Listen to the report here

    The national conservation group, American Rivers based in Washington D.C., has listed the Buffalo National River among the top ten endangered rivers in the United States. We query Arkansas Parks and Tourism about how this status might impair the states' tourism economy. We also talk with Teresa Turk, an independent scientist who has been monitoring water quality in the watershed. Teresa Turk will present new results from her Buffalo River water quality research April 25th, at the Boone County Public Library at 5:30pm.

  • 11 Apr 2017 6:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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 member (Administrator)


    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 member (Administrator)

    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 member (Administrator)

    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 member (Administrator)



    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 member (Administrator)


    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 member (Administrator)

    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.
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