Arkansas’ chief enforcer of environmental law has its hands full in Baxter and Newton counties.
A war of press releases, public commentary and rebuttals continues over a large new hog farm in the Buffalo National River watershed that some believe is a threat to the ecosystem of the Ozarks.
Little Rock attorney Hank Bates, whose clients include the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association and the Arkansas Canoe Club, expects to meet today with Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks.
That’s just a sampling of those opposed to C & H Hog Farm Inc. in Newton County. The latest undefined Dr. John Van Brahana, a retired professor of geosciences for the University of Arkansas undefined explained his opposition Monday on university letterhead stationery.
The hog farm fight is just one on the north Arkansas front for ADEQ. The agency has filed a lawsuit against the six-county Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Management District, which includes Newton County, seeking a judge’s order to district directors to bring the NABORS landfill in north Baxter County into compliance with environmental and financial-assurance regulations.
Citizens for Clean Water complained Wednesday about a lack of action by ADEQ for cleanup of the Damco Inc. waste tire storage site in north Baxter County. The facility is approved to store 880 bales of tires containing 100 tires each. A recent inspection shows it contains 4,000 bales of tires.
Brahana’s complaint, directed to ADEQ director Marks, is couched in the the professor’s understanding of subterranean karst geology known as the Boone Formation underneath Newton County. The professor complains that underground water, including any from the hog farm, can move through porous karst formations as quickly as water flows above ground.
“I know of no active karst consultant who recommends that a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) be sited on karstified limestone, particularly up-gradient from so sensitive a natural resource as the Buffalo National River, with its direct-contact use by canoeists, fishermen and swimmers,” Brahana wrote.
The farm sits less than six miles from the Buffalo River, near its confluence with Big Creek.
Brahana’s letter was circulated on the Internet this week as an attachment to still another letter to Marks from Bates on behalf of the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association and Arkansas Canoe Club.
Meanwhile, 30 days have passed since most of Bates’ clients, represented in Washington by law firm Earthjustice, sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farm Services Agency because of the hog farm’s alleged threat to endangered species.
ADEQ granted a permit in August 2012 to C & H partners for concentrated feeding of up to 2,500 gestation sows and up to 4,000 piglets under roof, and storage of more than 2 million gallons of of manure, litter and wastewater. The mix is to be diluted and dispersed by liquid spray applicators over a 630-acre area, according to a 260-page permit application posted to ADEQ’s website.
The following statement is a common thread in press releases from organizations opposed to the farm:
“The C & H facility’s loan and guarantee were issued in the summer and fall of 2012. Because of a failure to notify local residents, however, the community in and around Mount Judea did not find out about the facility’s construction until this year. The lack of adequate public notice is just one of a number of egregious failures on the part of the state and federal government to ensure that this facility will not have detrimental impacts on the exceptional natural resources of the Buffalo River watershed.”
ADEQ claims to have held six public hearings in 2011 before adopting the general permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that enabled C & H Hog Farms to borrow money through the Farm Service Agency to build and operate.
On May 15, Bates published a litany of alleged omissions, errors and misrepresentations in a nutrient management plan ADEQ approved for C & H Hog Farm based on what Bates says is an inaccurate soil test furnished by livestock feed vendor Cargill Inc. Bates says C & H’s plan to apply phosphorus-laden farm waste onto nearby fields already rich in phosphates will pollute Big Creek and the Buffalo and should mandate ADEQ to revoke the C & H permit.
Seven days later Marks responded by letter and roundly disagreed with Bates claims.
“A review of the data provided to ADEQ shows the correct soil type was provided and entered into the (phosphates) index spreadsheet,” Marks wrote.
Perry Wheeler, a spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association, said Wednesday that Bates’ meeting today with Marks will be private, to discuss issues generally.
He said there’s no plan for a press release following the meeting.