ADEQ has granted a permit for a 6503 swine farm (CAFO) near Big Creek, West of Mt. Judea, (Hwy. intersections 74/123) in Newton County, Arkansas. There will be 17 separate hog waste application fields, 11 of these are adjacent to Big Creek, a tributary to the Buffalo National River. Total acreage = 630.7 acres. The treatment facility will consist of shallow pits with a capacity of 759,542 gallons, a settling basin with capacity of 831,193 gallons and a holding pond with capacity of 1,904,730 gallons. This amounts to 2,090,181 gallons of manure, litter, and wastewater per year, equivalent to what the city of Harrison produces.
There are several concerns:
Newton County residents were not notified of the request for a permit and were not given an opportunity to comment. The only notification of C&H Hog Farm, Inc. appeared on the ADEQ website, buried with other permit applications. No local newspaper had articles alerting the public to the comment period for this specific farm. This appears to result from a change in rules by the EPA, which since 2011 authorizes ADEQ to administer statewide general permits. Under this system, anyone can apply for a permit to build a CAFO if they follow the permitting procedure and submit plans that meet certain requirements. No environmental impact statement is required and no distinction between geological substrate underlying the soil is made. This, in spite of the fact that there have been sewage lagoon collapses causing pollution of underground water, when caves in karst formation, like the formation underlying the C&H Farm, have collapsed!
Pollution of Air and Water
One of the co-owners has asked us why we are talking about pollution before the fact. The fact is that both water and air pollution are certain. The facility is being constructed to protect against a 25 year rain event. That means an abnormal amount of rain falling in a short time raising water levels above the expected flood that may occur once in 25 years. According to the USGS we had a 50 year flood in 1982, and a 25 year flood in 2008, March 19th. Between 2002 and 2012 there were nine occasions of “flood plain inundations” (extreme rain events). Such an inundation will wash hog waste sprayed on fields into Big Creek. The farm is on porous karst geology, therefore seepage into underground water is also nearly certain. Many in the community depend on wells for household water. Wells will become polluted. ADEQ mentions a monitoring station in Big Creek which would alert officials to polluted water. However, by the time pollution is registered, it may be too late for the species that are currently under study for endangered listing. They can only exist because BNR water is pristine. Once pollutants lodge in gravel bars, ammonia and methane are released which are toxic to fish and mussels.
Average farm mortality of hogs is 10%. C&H Hog Farm has no provision for the disposal of carcasses, which are usually burned, or the resulting ash. Hog farm odors in general are not healthy. Toxic wastes released into air and water can contain viruses, parasites, antibiotic resistant bacteria, hormones, as well as ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide (a neurotoxin).
Twenty five percent of employees working in CAFO facilities report serious respiratory problems in addition to nausea and headache. Increased illness rates in people living near CAFOs include respiratory problems, confusion, depression, fatigue, and gastroenteritis.
Mt. Judea school is only 1/16 mile from the waste application fields. Studies show a 12.4 % increase in children’s asthma in those living ½ mile from a CAFO. The toxic wastes containing neurotoxins as well as the other dangerous substances listed above can have adverse and irreversible effects on brain and nervous system development.
Besides the above illnesses, the public in general is exposed to more drug resistant bacteria. The rural life, prized for outdoor activities, is threatened when homeowners need to protect themselves from air and manure from a CAFO.
Communities may think there will be an increase in jobs, however once the facility is complete and operation begins, evidence shows that loss of jobs, depressed property values, loss of income for local business and a huge drain on county resources result from a CAFO coming into a rural area. In a CAFO one employee replaces three that would work on a farm. About ten jobs are expected to result from this farm, probably minimum wage positions. Costs of road and bridge upgrades and repairs increase. Decreased home and land value affects tax assessments and therefore county revenues. Cost for gravel road upkeep increased 40% in the study. CAFOs can be eligible for tax-write-offs. And CAFO operations spend less than 20% locally, while small farmers spend 95% locally. Pollution from the CAFO precludes new business, and any cleanup is by the local tax payers.
Land value will decrease. Average property values decrease by 6.6 % within a 3 mile radius of a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) and by 88% within a 1/10 mile radius of such a factory farm.
One hog farm is likely to invite others to locate in the area, as supplies, food and transport will be more economical when scaled up.
Family farms and farm animals are welcome in Newton county. However, this C&H Hog Farms,Inc. is a confined (or consolidated) animal feeding operation of over 6000 swine, only 100 feet in some places separating it from a major tributary of the Buffalo National River. The number of hogs in this one area will about equal the human population of the entire county.
A $38 million dollar tourism industry is being put at risk.
The people of Newton County should not have their air, water, health, and land degraded and devalued by a giant corporation, Cargill. Buffalo National River, the country’s first National River, which belongs to us all, is in danger of losing its extraordinary water quality. As one of the countries highest quality recreational rives, its pristine water is the very thing which attracts over a million visitors each year and allows the variety of birds and wildlife along its banks to exist.
Unlike Iowa, where Cargill designs its CAFO operations, our karst topography in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas is porous limestone and riddled with caves, seeping springs, and underground waterways. Spreading manure or using holding ponds here does not ensure that the groundwater will be unaffected by waste seepage. Any opening in the soil could be the entrance to a sinkhole or cave yet undiscovered.