Buffalo River 

Public Comments on Rulemaking for A Permanent Moratorium and Other Revisions to Regulation 5 and 6

The Pollution Control and Ecology Commission held a public hearing on August 23, 2019 and began a 30-day comment period ending on September 23rd to accept public comments regarding proposed changes to Regulation 5 and Regulation 6 permits for liquid animal waste facilities. ADEQ will post comments after the comment period ends and will then formally respond to all. BRWA asks our supporters to send copies of their comments and we will post them here as we receive them for the benefit of others composing comments.

Please submit your comments to Reg-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us by 

4 pm, Monday, September 23rd.

Proposed Regulation 5 Changes The most substantive change to Reg 5 is found in Chapter 9: Watershed Specific Regulations regarding the proposal to prohibit permits for medium and large swine CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed. BRWA supports this change as written.

Proposed Regulation 6 Revisions Chapter 6: Specific Basin and Watershed Requirements contains the identical language regarding protection of the Buffalo watershed as in Regulation 5. BRWA also supports this language. However, there are numerous other changes as well, some of which BRWA recommends not be adopted. We will be posting comments on these points soon.

Public Comments

BRWA oral statement presented by our attorney, Richard Mays on August 23, 2019. (We will post more extensive written comments here soon)

Sherrie McIntyre

 To ADEQ:                                                                                                                                 

As a life long visitor/vacationers with long family roots to Arkansas I have always treasured the purity of the rivers and water ways. The beauty of the land has amazed and astounded not only myself but my family. Arkansas is our vacation destination yearly. We swim, fish, canoe and enjoy the many caves.   That is why a Permanent moratorium is necessary. To keep the Buffalo river pure and beautiful for generations to come. Not only are you ensuring the health and we'll being of Arkansans but all who come to visit this beautiful place. Thank you!                                                              

Elizabeth Harris:

I am writing to urge a permanent moratorium on development of swine CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed.

As a frequent hiker and kayaker alongside and on the Buffalo River I am familiar with the beauty of the land and water,  beauty both spectacular and especially sensitive due to its karst geology which contains cracks,caves and underground streams. This geology makes the area particularly unsuitable for a confined animal feeding operation.

CAFO waste allows for build-up of phosphorus in soils and fails to account for groundwater pathways to the river and the groundwater will make its way to the river because the soil is too thin to accommodate industrial applications.

I am requesting a permanent moratorium so we never again have to go through the time and huge expense to the State of Arkansas to defend the water quality of the river from CAFOs.

The river and the land beside it is not only special to me, but to many many others who not only enjoy the river, but support  state and community businesses both directly and indirectly with their travel dollars. A clean Buffalo River enhances the state of Arkansas, drawing people from across the country and helping our local economies. 

I am pleased that Gov. Hutchinson and the Commission have taken steps to protect the Buffalo and urge them to institute a permanent moratorium on the issuance of CAFO permits.

Thank you for your consideration, Elizabeth Harris, Mountain View AR  72560

Steve and Joan Miller:

After experiencing so many water quality problems, potential disasters, and battles between residents living in our area (and beyond),we would highly recommend that the Commission adopt the proposed modifications to Rule 5 and 6, permanently prohibiting the development of swine medium-and-large CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed.  This would eliminate potential problems to continue into the future of the Buffalo River watersheds.Thank you, Steven & Joan Miller Jasper, Arkansas

Pam Stewart:


The Buffalo River Watershed requires a permanent moratorium against CAFOs and other polluting industries in order to protect the river’s waters.  Reasons to support the moratorium are:

The watershed topography is based on limestone (karst) which is easily dissolved, containing cracks, caves, and fissures providing unfiltered pathways for pollutants to enter the river.

The very caves, springs and waterfalls resulting from the karst and making it vulnerable to pollution, are what bring tourists to Buffalo River country.

This underlying topography of the area was not considered in the initial permit issued to C&H, (in part because there was no local notification of the project).

Large amounts of hog food have been brought into the watershed from outside, and the resulting digested waste has been stored in clay-lined lagoons expected to leak up to 5000 gallons/day with the remaining untreated sewage spread as “fertilizer” on fields also within the watershed.  

The problem is that many fields don’t require or take up the “fertilizer”. Thie excess phosphorus  runs off surface soil in rains or is leached through the thin soil and porous rock layers, causing streams and river to be over fertilized, resulting in excess algal growth, followed by eutrophication, dying of fish, mussels, and water insects.  

People who love nature and wilderness will always want to be near the river.  The Buffalo River National Park should be an area for learning what pure waters and protected watersheds can provide.  In many parts of our country, as in NJ where I grew up, no streams were safe for swimming or even wading .  People are willing to travel far fo find a river with extra ordinarily pure water, such as the Buffalo.  The watershed gains importance as population expansion increases the value of such places.  

While human enjoyment of the Buffalo may be the most obvious reason to protect it, the watershed area and river provide valuable health services.  Native trees and plants provide for pollinating insects needed for crops, as well as erosion control, food for fish and frogs, birds etc.   They  produce oxygen, and modify weather systems.   Soil bacteria and fungi along with insects recycle wastes and return nutrients to the soil.  

These are just a few of the reasons that the country’s first National River, the Buffalo,  requires a permanent moratorium to protect it against CAFOs or other industries which can disturb the natural processes within the watershed.

Thank you for your consideration and interest in this process.

Pam Stewart P.O. Box 632, Jasper, AR

Denise Dore:

Please consider that these industrial meat production operations  negatively impact thousands of neighboring families and the land they live on while providing only a handful of jobs. I totally support sustainable development of our land so that the future generations have clean food and water. Corporate farming desecrates the land and it’s inhabitants because it is only about profit for a few individuals who don’t even live here. Your paycheck comes from the taxes we pay to ensure the safety and well being of our people.

Grant Scarsdale

I fully support the changes proposed by ADEQ to Rule 5 and Rule 6 that would institute a permanent moratorium on issuance of permits for medium and large swine CAFOs in the Buffalo National River watershed. 

My support is based upon sound science, and includes the following reasons why this protection should be made permanent.

1. The Buffalo River Watershed is underlain by karst geology, making it highly vulnerable to pollutants from CAFO operations

The bluffs, springs, and caves that make the Buffalo so spectacular and valuable as a nationally-recognized tourism destination also highlight its sensitivity to pollutants. Karst geology is characterized by dissolved and fractured limestone formations, with caves, sinkholes and irregular underground pathways for liquids. Karst geology in the Buffalo River watershed has long been scientifically recognized, but was not considered in the requirements for the NPDES General Permit for CAFOs under Regulation 6, under which the C&H Hog Farm was originally permitted, and which has since lapsed.

Studies that were developed by some of the country’s leading geologists and hydrologists during the recent litigation over the C&H Hog Farm have demonstrated the unsuitability of karst geology as a location for a confined animal feeding operation – particularly a swine CAFO, due to the volumes of waste produced and the land-application of those liquid wastes – and the dangers they present to the Buffalo River watershed. ADEQ’s staff of highly–qualified scientists also agreed with those conclusions.

2. Rule 5’s requirements include considerations for siting and design contained in the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook (AWMFH) that disqualify areas underlain with karst geology.

Chapter 4 of the Commission’s Regulation (Rule) 5 states that “designs and waste management plans” of CAFOs shall be in compliance with, not only the requirements contained in Rule 5, but also the Field Office Technical Guide and the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook (AWMFH). The AWMFH is very explicit in stating that karst geology underlying a proposed CAFO facility may disqualify a site for a waste storage pond, treatment lagoons, and other means of animal waste storage and application.

3. CAFO waste is applied to pastures using the Arkansas Phosphorus Index (API), which allows build-up of phosphorus in soils and fails to account for groundwater pathways to contaminate the river.

A significant weakness of the API is its failure to consider karst, gravel bars, or any subsurface geological risk factors when determining the risk of waste applications to waters of the state. As the API fails to account for groundwater or karst, this presents undue risks relative to CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed.

Even aside from the problem of land-application of swine wastes in a karst area, there is the issue of the over-application of wastes to fields pursuant to the API formula used in CAFO nutrient management planning, which allows an operator to distribute phosphorus in excess of crop removal. Such over-application can not only result in the discharge of excess phosphorus through rain events into surface water, but also the leaching of phosphorus (“legacy phosphorus”) from the plants and soils over extended periods of time into surface waters.

4. Soils in many waste-application fields in the Buffalo River watershed are too thin to accommodate industrial level applications of CAFO waste

The AWMFH states (651.0504(d) Soil Characteristics, depth to bedrock) that a shallow depth of topsoil to bedrock or cemented pan often does not allow for sufficient filtration or retention of agricultural wastes or agricultural waste mineralization by-products. A top soil depth of less than 40 inches limits plant growth and root penetration and reduces soil agricultural waste adsorptive capacity.

Thus, agricultural wastes that are continually applied to thin soils over karst geology, such as those in the Buffalo River watershed, can overload the soil retention capacity. This allows waste and mineralization byproducts to accumulate at the rock interface, or, where karst geology is present, to pass through the karst to ground water, aquifers, and downgradient surface waters.

5. Avoidance of repeating future public payouts

It is difficult to believe that, after the events of the past five years, any other persons or organizations would apply for a permit for another CAFO in the Buffalo River watershed, or that such a permit would be granted. Nevertheless, memories fade, and the possibility that could occur will become greater as the years go by in the absence of a moratorium. The State and others are investing considerable sums of money to resolve the conflict that arose from the C&H permit, and we do not want to see the conflict repeat itself. But, without a moratorium, that investment could be for naught.

I also do not want the C&H settlement to incentivize future permit applicants to acquire another CAFO permit in the Buffalo River watershed with the mistaken understanding that this could lead to another buy-out. This landmark agreement should not be mistakenly considered as a way to turn a profit at the expense of the taxpayer.

I urge the Commission to adopt the proposed modifications to Rule 5 and 6, permanently prohibiting the development of swine medium-and-large CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed.

I incorporate and adopt all other comments supportive of a permanent moratorium on medium and large CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed, and reserve the right to submit additional, more detailed comments in writing.

Respectfully submitted, 

Grant Scarsdale

Mark Smith:

support the changes proposed by ADEQ to Rule 5 and Rule 6 that would institute a permanent moratorium on issuance of permits for medium and large swine CAFOs in the Buffalo National River watershed for the following reasons:

1) Soils in the area are too thin to entrain the large quantities of animal wastes associated with these facilities.
2) The underlying Karst provides a transport path for these wastes to the Buffalo National River and/or feeder streams, resulting in pollution of these waterbodies.
3) Instituting the moratorium will prevent the need to use taxpayer funds in the future to correct the condition should a permit be issued in the future.  
4) The Buffalo National River, as one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in Arkansas and the U.S. is a much too important resource to risk pollution in the future.  

Mark Smith
Dover, Ark.

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