Taney County officials got no notice that Arkansas hog waste was spread on Missouri ranch
Wes Johnson, Springfield News-LeaderPublished 11:00 p.m. CT March 15, 2020
Taney County officials were given no notice that 2.63 million gallons of liquid hog waste from a closed hog farm in Arkansas was being shipped across the state line and spread onto a Taney County ranch.
The waste came from C&H Hog Farm, which was closed and purchased by the state of Arkansas after an uproar about its location close to the Buffalo National River. Environmental groups feared hog waste from the farm spread as fertilizer on nearby land could eventually contaminate the national river.
Taney County Commissioner Sheila Wyatt said she got a call from a local resident concerned about numerous large trucks he saw rolling up to a Taney County ranch along the Arkansas border that were spreading hog waste on the ranch pastures.
Wyatt said she drove to the site and witnessed trucks delivering the waste. She didn't step out of her car but said others who contacted her were complaining about the smell.
Wyatt said no one notified the county that large amounts of hog waste were headed to Taney County. Wyatt said she wanted to talk to Stone County officials about their land-use regulations, which she believes are stricter than Taney County's.
Rick Warren, who lives about four miles from the ranch, said he was concerned that hog waste, if applied too heavily, might eventually wash into the watershed that feeds Bee Creek.
He called the county for help.
"I've fished there and swam there my whole life and enjoyed that creek," Warren said Wednesday. "That watershed goes right into Bee Creek and that goes on into Bull Shoals Lake. It's too late now. They've finished hauling it in."
County observed operation
John Soutee, Taney County environmental services coordinator, said he visited the property, photographed the trucks and talked with some of the Denali Water Solutionsemployees who were delivering the waste.
"I could see where they had built up along the highway to handle those big trucks," Soutee said. "They would park the big ones in the field to offload the liquid waste onto buggies pulled by tractors to apply it to the fields."
He said it appeared the Denali crews were being careful not to spray hog waste on steep slopes. The spray areas were marked with red flags to keep the material off the slopes.
Soutee described the application areas as pasture land, and he acknowledged that it did stink.
"There was a strong odor that you could tell was from swine waste," he said.
Soutee said Taney County has no rules or regulations regarding the application of animal waste as fertilizer. However, Taney County officials asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to send someone to take a look.
Land is on Missouri-Arkansas border
The land on which the hog waste was being applied is part of several parcels totaling more than 1,200 acres that adjoin the Arkansas-Missouri state line, east of JJ highway.
Soutee said county land records show the property is owned by "Maier, Peter et al, c/o Jim Berry of Omaha, Arkansas."
The News-Leader was unable to reach Berry to ask how Arkansas officials settled on the Taney County tracts for disposal of hog waste.
However, Mike Dortch, operations coordinator with Denali Water Solutions, said the Taney County ranch was located "by us going by knocking on doors."
"The terrain was part of it, but we were also looking for the closest acceptable site away from the (Buffalo River) watershed," Dortch said. "This is what we do, 24/7, weather permitting."
In an email, Arkansas environmental officials previously told the News-Leader that “(t)he liquid animal waste in the ponds (at the Arkansas hog farm) will be removed and taken to a permitted site outside of the Buffalo River watershed that is authorized to accept the waste.”
At the time, ADEQ did not respond to a second News-Leader query asking where that "permitted site" was located.
ADEQ contracted with Denali Water Solutions to haul away the liquid hog waste from the hog farm's two lagoons. The $749,019 cleanup contract is not part of the $6.2 million farm acquisition cost.
Teresa Gallegos, a spokeswoman for Denali Water Solutions, said the company applied 2.63 million gallons of liquid hog waste to 199 acres of "Bermuda grass farmland."
That's 13,235 gallons of waste per acre.
"The material is a source of fertilizer," Gallegos said. "We land apply based on crop nutrient uptake in accordance with MU Extension recommendations."
Gallegos said the hog-waste spreading from the Arkansas hog farm has concluded.
Missouri DNR responds
Cindy Davies, Missouri DNR's Southwest Regional Office director, said DNR doesn't plan to do any monitoring near the Taney County site "since we did not see any indication of over-application."
"The specifics of the investigation can be provided once our investigation report is complete," Davies said in an email. "The Department does not have application rate requirements for this sort of situation but we do provide recommendations."
Davies said DNR visited the site several times and found no issues with the way the hog waste was being applied or the volume being placed on the fields.
"Regarding the volume, we do want to make sure that they do not apply so much that it runs off the property and causes water quality issues," Davies said. "As we noted previously, we did not see this issue."
She added that there are no laws that prevent animal waste from being taken from one state to be applied in another state.
"Animal waste must be managed appropriately whether it is handled by the producer or exported to another property via a third party such as Denali," Davies said.
"Companies such as Denali are allowed to apply this material as a soil amendment on fields, with approval from landowners, as long as they follow certain requirements such as preventing runoff and ensuring they do not cause pollution to waters of the state."
Davies said the land application of liquid hog waste for agricultural purposes does not require a permit in Missouri.
"The land used for land application is under an agreement between the company applying the waste and the land owner," she said.
"We are not aware of the permit that Arkansas DEQ references but if the land owner agrees to accept the waste then it would be considered an authorized site."