Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

News


  • 24 Jan 2017 3:21 PM | Anonymous

    Fran Alexander: Rockin' for a river

    Musicians set to raise money for river movement


    By Fran Alexander

    Posted: January 24, 2017 at 1 a.m.


    One of the more innocent notions we humans want to believe is that there is fairness within our government's policies. People usually don't find out otherwise until they are personally affected or until there is a threat to something very important and much bigger than themselves. At this awakening, folks choose to be either passive or active in their reactions to forces that are changing, and sometimes destroying, that which they cherish.

    Fortunately, now that the time has come -- again -- to protect Arkansas' Buffalo River, there are people of an activist persuasion to wage the fight -- again. Unlike the effort in the 1960s led by Dr. Neil Compton and the Ozark Society to save this beautiful free-flowing river from being dammed, the threat now is pig manure, an estimated 2 million gallons per year of the stuff. This time The Battle for the Buffalo River, as Compton titled his book about the first rescue, has originated within the state rather than being pushed by a federal agency like the Army Corps of Engineers.

    In 2011 the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, without even informing the Buffalo National River staff or publishing notifications to the public, permitted a 6,500-hog farm operation to be located on a hillside above Big Creek, a major tributary that feeds into our nation's very first national river. And, the hill's geology where the manure is spread on thin pasture topsoil is karst limestone. If you don't know what that is, visualize a hill of Swiss cheese-like rock that's full of cracks, crevices and caves through which water and pollutants move easily and rapidly with little filtration.

    By 2013 when people began to realize the magnitude of what was being built and where, established organizations began to come together around the issue. The Ozark Society, Audubon Arkansas, Ozark River Stewards, Arkansas Canoe Club and the National Parks Conservation Association have all played vital roles in bringing this issue to the public's attention.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance was formed in 2013 to educate and advocate for the preservation and protection of the river, and is working for the closing of the C&H Hog Farm and for a moratorium on any future confined hog feeding operations in that watershed.

    A timeline on the alliance's website scarcely gives justice to the thousands of hours volunteers have donated to save the integrity of the water and ecosystems of the river, which is a $38 million tourism attraction in a county where there are now probably more hogs than people. Reading between the lines of that timeline, one can recognize the continual obstinance of the Department of Environmental Quality and politicians in facing up to the damaging mistake they made and their slowness to correct it. Instead they have burdened the lives of people, who continually have to seek every avenue possible to raise the thousands of dollars it is taking to protect what is, ironically, priceless.

    Currently the hog farm has applied for a regulation (Reg 5) to continue their operations indefinitely, and when the state announces its decision, a 30-day public comment period will begin. Anticipating and preparing for the decision means getting a technical and legal analysis of the permit, which includes consulting with attorneys, agricultural engineers, hydrogeologists, etc., who are all expensive necessities in responding correctly.

    Once again, citizens to the rescue! A Buffalo Boogie fundraising bash will rock into musical action Sunday at George's on Dickson Street in Fayetteville from 4 to 9:30 p.m.-ish, with donations accepted at the door as admission. Mayor Lioneld Jordan will issue a free parking proclamation for the Walton Art Center's west lot, and bands begin playing at 5 p.m. with Bill Dollar and Loose Change, followed by The Sumler/Huff Band, Jim Mills & the Hellbenders, Leah and the Mojo Doctors, and the Cate Brothers, who will all be making music to help continue the alliance's battle to save Arkansas' magnificent river -- again.

    If rock 'n' roll doesn't cure the ills or cover the cost caused by this hog farm, Mike Alexy, the concert organizer, has yet one more pretty creative solution to the confined animal feeding operation manure problem. He suggests converting the barns into a different kind of CAFO, a "cannabis agriculture facilitating operation," and to call the new products "Bacon Buds" in honor of those who went before. "The sun would come out and butterflies would start singing in the valley," he said, smiling. "Problem solved."

    He just may be right.

    Commentary on 01/24/2017


  • 23 Jan 2017 8:28 AM | Anonymous

    Politico.com



    CAFO limbo over loan approval 


    slowdown


    By HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH

     

    10/20/16 10:00 AM EDT

    With help from Catherine Boudreau, Ian Kullgren, Jenny Hopkinson and Adam Behsudi 


    CAFO LIMBO OVER LOAN APPROVAL SLOWDOWN: The Obama administration is slow-walking the approval process for the credit it gives to large dairy and livestock farms out of fear it could get slapped with another big environmental lawsuit, reports Pro Ag’s Catherine Boudreau this morning. Big farms in the South, Midwest and Northeast are struggling to get the financing they need because of the slowdown, with applications for loan guarantees languishing for more than a year and a half in some cases, lenders and state farm groups say.


    The foot-dragging stems from a 2013 lawsuit that the environmental law nonprofit Earthjustice filed against the administration over loans it guaranteed for farmers to build a concentrated animal feeding operation in northern Arkansas. The litigation has forced the Small Business Administration to reevaluate the way it vets the loan applications to include an assessment of the environmental impact of construction, causing major delays in loan approvals. The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency is also taking longer to sign off on guaranteed farm loans for new construction, due to stricter environmental scrutiny, lenders say — though an agency spokesman said its environmental evaluation process hasn’t changed as a result of the lawsuit, with the exception of the Arkansas case.


    The backlog of loan applications in states like Arkansas, New York and Wisconsin is hurting the already-sluggish rural economy, lawmakers say, and comes as the agriculture industry faces increasing pressure from environmental groups to reduce the impact of farming on land, water and climate. Read Boudreau’s report here.

  • 21 Jan 2017 8:45 AM | Anonymous

    Algae agreement

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: January 21, 2017 at 2:58 a.m.


    A milestone event occurred last month, one could say right beneath our noses. That's when, after three years of studies and debate between Oklahoma and Arkansas, a six-member committee representing both states agreed on the amount of phosphorus allowed in the scenic rivers of Oklahoma, including the Illinois that flows along the states' shared border.

    This consensus is significant. It signals a new day after three decades of interstate dispute over just how much fertilizer runoff should be legally allowed to enter the Illinois that feeds into eastern Oklahoma's Lake Tenkiller.

    Final answer: Minuscule.

    D.E. Smoot of the Muskogee Phoenix did first-rate reports on this unanimous agreement beginning in early December. His initial story on Dec. 3 quoted Denise Deason-Toyne saying the committee's final recommendation wound up validating Oklahoma's phosphorus limits in its scenic rivers. The latest findings were based to a large degree on two years of water-quality studies by a Baylor professor.

    In reaching accord, she said, the way was cleared for Arkansas and Oklahoma to cooperate to protect the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller by adding limits to nitrogen, sediment and bacteria levels, as well as mining activity.

    This meeting of the minds also resolved the dispute over the diminishing water quality in the Illinois due to a burgeoning population and unregulated agricultural practices, Smoot wrote. The Illinois flows near steadily growing Prairie Grove through farmlands and numerous poultry operations in westernmost Arkansas.

    The arguments always boiled down to deciding just how much phosphorus is acceptable in scenic streams. Phosphorus and nitrogen can dramatically affect aquatic life in free-flowing creeks and rivers by promoting rampant blooms of algae that consume dissolved oxygen from water.

    At the risk of boring valued readers with statistics, a phosphorus level of 0.037 mg/l (based on geometric mean), the maximum allowable limit set in 2003, was reduced at the December meeting to 0.035 mg/l based on a six-month average of samples drawn from the Illinois when surface runoff isn't a factor.

    An Oklahoma water resources official said now that the exhaustive debate's been settled, the changes in the duration and frequency of sampling phosphorus levels shouldn't affect overall water quality. The level all committee members could agree upon was essentially a necessary compromise.

    Despite reaching accord, research will continue into several aspects of potential contamination. The committee agrees, while over enrichment of streams with phosphorus is one area of significant concern. They also would like to see riparian zones established along with basic habitat protection.

    The committee's work finally done, its members have headed home to their respective states. The biggest questions now are who will enforce the agreement and how that tricky job will be achieved. The recommendations have gone to the Arkansas and Oklahoma governors who hopefully will see these questions resolved.

    The recommendations both governors received included a two-year study headed by Baylor Professor Ryan S. King.

    King's research over two years at three dozen sites along scenic streams in both states essentially dealt with "'the total phosphorus threshold response level' that produces a 'statistically significant shift' in 'algal species composition or ... biomass production' that results in 'undesirable aesthetic or water quality conditions'," Smoot writes.

    As a rank layman who's waded Arkansas streams throughout my life, I interpret that to say the professor looked at the stream's phosphorus levels and precisely determined how much of the stuff it took to cause an ugly and/or unhealthy stream.

    Count me among those pleased to see our state and its westernmost neighbor reach accord after so many years. Yet, as committee co-chairman and University of Arkansas professor Brian Haggard reiterated to Smoot, the work to cleanse and preserve the Illinois and other scenic streams is ongoing.

    "Phosphorus is one component, but we really need to be looking at what is going on in the landscape that changes the hydrology, what is going on in the riparian zones ... that affect stream-bank failures and impact habitats within the streams," Haggard said. "We could get phosphorus levels down to where we want to see them but not see the biological response in terms of fish habitats and different things we might be interested in if we don't look at those."

    Haggard certainly makes a crucial point. The habitats of our natural and scenic rivers and the creatures that live there are not only critical, but reliable indicators of any stream's health.

    As a footnote, I believe most Arkansans would wholeheartedly agree that if Oklahoma and Arkansas can spend decades to finally cooperate in ensuring the purity of the Illinois and other Oklahoma rivers, these same (now proven) phosphorus limits along with habitat concerns must be applied to our state's scenic rivers, particularly the country's first national river, our precious Buffalo.

    Drop the governor a message with your feelings should you agree.

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

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

    Editorial on 01/21/2017

  • 21 Jan 2017 8:40 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansasonline


    Drilling samples at hog farm at Big Creek show no E. coli

    Emily Walkenhorst

    1/21/17


    A study conducted at C&H Hog Farms found no evidence of a hog manure leak at the farm 6 miles from the Buffalo River, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality concluded this week.

    State-hired contractors conducted research Sept. 21-26 at C&H. The research involved drilling 120.5 feet into the ground and taking several soil, water and soil leachate samples at different levels, then comparing the results with samples taken in other parts of Newton County and with U.S. Geological Survey data taken in 2004.

    The department hired Harbor Environmental of Little Rock to conduct the drilling at C&H to detect whether one of the manure ponds had been leaking. The drilling project came about after the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance raised concerns about electrical resistivity imaging research done at C&H Hog Farms in early 2015, which the group obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request early this year.

    In the review released this week, the department noted that research had suggested some fractures in the ground but concluded that the suspected leak from the electrical resistivity research was groundwater in a porous zone in the ground.

    "There was no evidence of a release from the storage ponds," the one-page review reads.

    The Big Creek Research and Extension Team, hired by the state to do a five-year study of C&H's impact on the Buffalo River, had declined to conduct drilling. It argued there had been no evidence of a leak in other testing and suspected that the higher-than-expected moisture levels detected in the ground were likely clay.

    Jason Henson, co-owner of C&H Hog Farms, did not return a voice mail left for him Friday. He said last year that he was confident the drilling research would not find any pollution.

    Henson, a ninth-generation Mount Judea resident, said he trusted the research that had already been conducted by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team, which has not yet drawn any conclusions about pollution at C&H.

    In the review released this week, the department noted that its team consulted with Harbor staff on technical questions not answered in Harbor's December report.

    Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said his group's opinion on the research hadn't changed since it was presented to them in December. His group had pushed for drilling three different holes at C&H instead of just the one the state contractors drilled.

    Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Kelly Robinson emailed an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Friday afternoon explaining that the reason for only one hole had been addressed in a document released Dec. 1, but a reporter's request for that document went unanswered and such a document wasn't found on the department's website.

    Watkins said he also was skeptical about the water test results for E. coli, because contractors used chlorine-treated water from Eastern Newton County Water Association to lubricate the drilling process. Chlorine kills E. coli.

    In its review, the department noted that its water samples had been dechlorinated "and the validity of bacteriological samples was not compromised." The review does not note at what point the samples are gathered and dechlorinated, and an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette question to clarify that went unanswered Friday.

    Watkins said his group doesn't plan to fight the study's results but plans to submit public comments on C&H's application for a new permit, which has not gone through department review yet.

    "We've already made our concerns about the drilling report known," he said.

    The department released Harbor's results Dec. 2 but had asked researchers not to draw conclusions from their results. Instead, department officials decided to review the research internally and release their findings at a later date.

    The department did not take questions from the public at the event announcing the study's results Dec. 2 but said it would accept questions through noon Dec. 9, and it later extended that deadline to noon Dec. 16.

    Department officials said they would answer questions during the review process. Through Dec. 16, the department received 39 sets of questions from 33 people.

    Five pages attached to the review were intended to be a general response to questions about how the research was conducted. The review can be found on the department's website at: www.adeq.state.ar.us/water/bbri/c-and-h/drilling.aspx. The review notes a few corrections to make to existing documents.

    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 permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.

    The Buffalo National River had 1.46 million visitors last year, the third-highest total since it became a national river and the highest since a record count of 1.55 million in 2009.

    C&H has been accused of posing a pollution risk to the river because of its federally classified "large" size. State-funded researchers separate from Harbor Environmental continue to monitor the farm to see whether it is affecting the river and have so far released no definite finding.

    The department paid Harbor Environmental $75,000 for the project, which involved drilling at C&H and taking samples at certain depths. Harbor hired Cascade Drilling of Memphis to do the drilling, while Harbor and independent geologist Tai Hubbard supervised the work.

    Drilling samples were sent to Arkansas Analytical Inc., the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture's Soils Testing and Research Laboratory, and the Ouachita Baptist University laboratory directed by Joe Nix.

    The samples were tested for 18 nutrients and minerals, although not every sample was tested for all 18. The results mostly fit the parameters set by the U.S. Geological Survey except where the Geological Survey did not have comparable data, according to Harbor's presentation in December. Soil leachate samples showed higher concentrations of the nutrients and elements below the ponds but still fit Geological Survey parameters when applicable. The Geological Survey did not always have comparable data for nitrogen, phosphorus or total organic carbon. No soil samples detected E. coli, and ammonia was found above Geological Survey levels in one of five water samples.

    The drilling samples also gave a picture of the makeup of the ground at C&H. Researchers found what they believed to be mostly clay down to 13.5 feet, limestone and clay from 13.5 feet to 28 feet, and limestone from 28 feet to 120.5 feet. Water loss during drilling suggested fractures in the ground from 25 feet to 38 feet. A drop in neutron counts suggested a porous zone from 100 feet to 120 feet.

    Research documents can be found on the department's website.

    Metro on 01/21/2017

  • 19 Jan 2017 9:29 AM | Anonymous

    Erosion, feral hogs pose concern on river

    Governor’s panel goal: Tend Buffalo

    By Emily Walkenhorst

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


    NWAOnline


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Metro on 01/19/2017


  • 18 Jan 2017 1:10 PM | Anonymous

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Panel urges Buffalo's protection

    Committee sets schedule, OKs charter at first meeting

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

    ArkansasOnline


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

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

  • 20 Dec 2016 10:28 AM | Anonymous

    What transparency?

    About that plume

    By Mike Masterson

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

    NWAOnline


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Editorial on 12/20/2016

  • 17 Dec 2016 1:13 PM | Anonymous

    Harrison Daily Times

    Watershed alliance questions hog farm test results


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

    Staff Report news@harrisondaily.com | 0 comments


     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 15 Dec 2016 1:57 PM | Anonymous


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

    Pig CAFOs influence timing of human flu seasons, study shows

    By  Maryn McKenna,  December 15, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Buffalo River Watershed Alliance
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software