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  • 26 Mar 2013 8:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Hog farm flub

    How’d that happen?
    By Mike Masterson
    This article was published 3/26/13 at 4:21 a.m.

    I can’t understand how our state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) would even consider approving the C&H Farms proposal for a commercial hog farm near Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo National River.

    Yet our government agencies did grant the permit and the FSA even used incomplete and inaccurate information in submitting its environmental assessment report concerning potential pollution to the Buffalo.

    That’s the bottom line of growing concern here: The likely seep of potent hog-waste pollution from this farm and its fields along Big Creek into America’s first national river flowing just 26,000 feet downstream.

    Wasn’t protecting its purity the very reason for declaring the Buffalo a protected national river? Why does the Department of Environmental Quality even exist if not for such circumstances?

    I’m no authority on farm animal waste. Yet all I’ve read about the comparisons between the enormous polluting qualities of swine raised in heavy concentrations shocks even me. These hogs are far more prolific polluters than we people. And we have sewage treatment systems.

    The National Institutes of Health says contaminants from swine farm wastes can enter the environment through leakage from poorly constructed manure lagoons, or during major rainfalls that cause the lagoons to overflow. There also is the potential runoff from recent applications of waste to farm fields.

    There are many contaminants in swine waste, some of which can damage human health. While lagoons can help destroy or reduce many pathogens, it’s clear to me they’re often not enough to stop seepages that contaminate their surroundings.

    As for applying hog waste to fields within a couple hundred feet of the Mount Judea school for up to three months a year, the National Park Service, in rebutting the FSA environmental assessment, said: “We also contend that risking pollution of Big Creek with phosphorus is quite controversial since it flows into America’s First National River.”

    The Park Service rebuttal letter also said the nutrient management plan submitted for the farm’s loan won’t protect water quality as written because the hog waste contains too much phosphorus for the amount of land. “How can FSA say there will be no impact to water resources without knowing the baseline conditions?” the Park Service asks.

    North Carolina is among the nation’s leaders in industrial swine farms, and its environment is paying a price. A 1995 study by North Carolina State University estimated that more than half the manure lagoons on hog farms there were leaking, adding that even without leaks, manure lagoons are so fragile that major storms often result in overflows.

    But the waste is but one part of the problem. There’s also the extremely putrid smell that can cover miles. Farm odors cause stress and negative moods in neighboring residents, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

    I’m equally concerned about the way this proposed corporate farm gained the state permit it needed to acquire the loan from a generous Farm Services Agency. There are lots of questions and red flags flapping over and around this ill-advised project.

    For example, in the proposed farm’s Notice of Intent filed with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, it states that the town of Mount Judea is 1.6 miles from the farm’s barn on local roads.

    Yet the map accompanying the notice shows a 2,000-foot circle around the farm’s barn with the farm’s waste-dispersal fields touching the banks of Big Creek (widely considered a border to the community of Mount Judea). Which is it? I suspect any pollution from the farm would be following a crow rather than a road.

    This is alarming to me, especially since the Park Service says it wasn’t consulted about this farm until after the permit and loan had been approved. That process required the FSA’s environmental assessment form, which the Park Service said contained 45 specific omissions, contradictions and inaccuracies. Who completed and submitted this document? And which federal official accepted and approved it in this form?

    I’m wondering why the loan hasn’t already been rescinded and an inquiry launched into the way it was prepared and submitted. If I’d acquired a loan using information that was afterwards shown to be inaccurate, misleading and/or erroneous, the lending agency would be canceling our agreement post-haste and relevant questions would be asked.

    What can we do? First, go to the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance website ( for many more relevant details than I can provide here.

    Then you might email or phone your local legislators. Then you could contact the governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Quality. The USDA Inspector General’s office can be reached at (202) 690-1622.

    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at Read his blog at
  • 25 Mar 2013 11:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    News Release

    Contact Information: Katherine Benenati / 501.682.0821 /

    FOR RELEASE: March 22, 2013


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will hold an informational meeting in Jasper on May 8 to provide information on a permit issued for C & H Hog Farms to operate in Mount Judea.
    The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the Carroll Electric Cooperative building at 511 E Court St., Jasper. ADEQ staff will make a presentation on the permit and will be available to answer questions.
    “In recent weeks, we’ve fielded a number of questions on the facility,” ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said. “We want to visit the community to provide information in person and hopefully answer some questions that have been raised about the operation and how our permitting process works.”
    The Department granted coverage in August 2012 to C & H Hog Farms under a General Permit for Concentrated Feeding Operations (CAFOs). C & H Hog Farm, which is under construction, is the first facility that sought coverage under the CAFO General Permit and to date is the only facility that has been approved under the General Permit.
    The CAFO permit program was the result of a 2003 lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency that required EPA to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations. States that had delegation from EPA for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit programs were required to either adopt the EPA permit or develop their own permit for concentrated animal feeding operations.
    ADEQ held six public hearings in 2011 before adopting the General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Such operations include hog farms, dairy farms and poultry farms. A General Permit is a permit that is applicable for a class or category of similar facilities and has specific conditions and requirements that must be met by any facility that seeks coverage pursuant to it.
    Information on the facility can be viewed online at Viewers should first select databases in the blue tab, then select “ADEQ Facility and Permit Summary (PDS).” To pull up the information, viewers can type “C & H” in the facility name and hit search.

  • 24 Mar 2013 7:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Publication:Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Date:Mar 23, 2013; Section:Northwest Arkansas; Page Number:9

    Pollution panel: Improve notices
    Hog-farm permit in Buffalo River watershed prompts order

    Commissioners with the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission ordered Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks on Friday to return in April with a plan to improve public notification of pending permits.

    The department’s decision to approve a permit for a 6,500-animal hog farm inside the Buffalo National River watershed has drawn criticism from advocates for the Buffalo National River.

    The directive, issued by commission Chairman Stan Jorgensen, came after two hours of public comment concerning a confined animal feeding operations general permit that the Environmental Quality Department issued to C&H Farms in Mount Judea. Most of those protesting the permit addressed the potential dangers to the national river and the failure of the department to adequately notify the public that such a permit was under consideration.

    At Friday’s meeting, Debbie Doss, conservation chairman for the Arkansas Canoe Club, summarized the complaints of about a dozen others, each of whom cited being taken by surprise by the issuance of the permit, despite being regularly engaged in public-policy participation.

    “If no one here knows what’s going on, there’s something wrong with the notification process,” Doss said.

    In 2010, the Environmental Quality Department began developing what is known as the “confined animal feeding operations general permit” under the guidelines of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems program authorized by the federal Clean Water Act. The new permit requires operators to establish extensive retaining systems for animal waste and other byproducts, but also allows operators to discharge waste from animal confinement areas into public waterways in the event of extraordinary rainfall.

    Between Feb. 11 and March 11, 2011, the department held six public-comment sessions around the state, during which comments from more than a dozen individuals, organizations and corporations were recorded. However, the review process concerned only the new confined animal feeding operations permit and had nothing to do with specific operations such as C&H Farms. The Arkansas confined animal feeding operations general permit became effective Nov. 1, 2011.

    C&H Farms was the first entity to apply for the new permit. Owners of the 670-acre farm, which is along the banks of Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo River, completed a notice of intent to apply for the general permit in June 2012. While the notice of intent was posted on the Environmental Quality Department’s website, no further efforts were made to contact area residents or agencies about the permit application.

    Interested parties can sign up to receive e-mail notifications from the department when it receives “notice of intent” applications for several kinds of permits, including permits for hazardous waste, solid waste and wastewater. According to department spokesman Katherine Benenati, an e-mail based mailing list that distributes information on applications for water permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems program was added to the site Feb. 19.

    In August, the department issued the state’s first confined animal feeding operations general permit to C&H Farms, having received no public comment regarding the proposal.

    Public outcry from environmental organizations and business owners who derive their income from tourism along the Buffalo National River began to mount after Kevin Cheri, superintendent of the river, expressed concern to Marks in a letter dated Dec. 20 over the National Park Service not being consulted during the permitting process for C&H Farms.

    Marks responded to Cheri’s letter by explaining the history and process of creating the confined animal feeding operations general permit, rather than addressing specific information related to C&H Farms.

    Marks told the commission Friday that during the process of gathering public comment on the state’s new general permit, administrators had no way of foreseeing an operation like C&H Farms.

    “The problem is, nobody knew at that time that a [confined animal feeding operation] was going to go into the Buffalo River watershed,” Marks said.

    “When that came out, that went on our website,” Marks said, referring to the notice regarding C&H Farms. “And that’s what folks are saying they didn’t get. They feel that that was wrong, and I understand what they’re saying.”

    Marks said she felt that despite public objections, greater public notice of the C&H Farms permit would not have changed the department’s decision to approve the permit.

    “If you don’t want anything going into the Buffalo River watershed, then you need to look at how you can prevent discharges into the Buffalo River watershed. It’s that kind of issue. It’s not a notice issue,” Marks said. “As long as it’s legal for us to permit there, I don’t know how we would have denied this permit based upon what I have heard, because it’s a permitable facility under current law.”

    Jorgensen told Marks to formulate a new approach to notifying the public to permit applications for presentation at the commission’s April 15 meeting.

    “This process doesn’t work, not well,” Jorgensen said. “In this situation, for sure.”

    After the meeting adjourned, Marks said a new process would likely concentrate on alerting county judges on a monthly basis to all new notices of intent that the department receives for affected counties.
  • 24 Mar 2013 4:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Our Buffalo and the hog farm

    Mike Masterson

    Those in Northwest Arkansas during the late 1990s likely recall the firestorm of public outcry to the state’s politicized decision (eventually reversed) to permit a landfill on one side of Hobbs Mountain near Durham.
    It was unbelievable to me when the public learned how the state’s environmental quality department, of all people, had actually permitted a landfill above the White River, wellspring to Beaver Lake, the region’s water supply.
    Now comes what, for me and many petitioners across Arkansas, is an equally outrageous approval by our state, one so questionable and seemingly rushed that even the federal government is asking what the heck’s up here.
    I’m talking about the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s decision in August to grant a permit for what would become a sprawling hog farm along Big Creek only five miles before it spills into the Buffalo National River.

    Big Creek flows adjacent to the Mount Judea schools deep within that breathtaking Buffalo watershed that motorists ogle as they travel the Ozarks along Arkansas 7 between Russellville and Jasper.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency subsequently approved a loan for the project and forwarded its required environmental assessment on the project to the National Park Service office.

    In a letter dated February 27, Kevin G. Cheri, director of the Buffalo National River, accuses the Farm Services Agency of failing to follow its own regulations by presenting a woefully incomplete and contradictory environmental assessment of the proposed farm.
    Cheri outlines 45 problem areas where he says the sister federal agency was out of compliance, inconsistent and downright nonfactual in its assessment that claimed (without a shred of scientific evidence or study) that the proposed industrial C&H Hog Farms would not have a significant impact on the environment or nearby Buffalo River.

    First off, Cheri says the cover sheet sent to his office referred to the Park Service as a “cooperating agency,” which it was not. Cheri’s office, he says, never received word of the assessment document, much less endorsed it, which meant the regulations that require such notification to cooperating agencies such as the Park Service were ignored.
    Among the more flagrant problems of the 45 that Cheri cites about the environmental assessment:
    It didn’t follow requirements set forth in two specific regulations.
    It says the proposed hog farm would consist of 478.93 acres. However, a nutrient management plan says potent hog waste would be spread across 630 acres with 23 additional acres for barns and waste ponds.
    While the assessment is supposed to describe “regulatory compliance,” that section was left blank, as was the section that deals with the manner in which the assessment is organized.
    Under the heading “proposed action,” the assessment indicates there would “be only 2,500 hogs on the farm. The 3 boars and 4,000 pigs that will be on the farm after the first litter cycle apparently do not count,” writes Cheri, adding that the nutrient management plan accounts for 6,503 swine. “This is an inconsistency in the documentation that is not explained,” he writes.
    Cheri says he and his staff also are concerned that the environmental assessment doesn’t bother describing where any affected environments are located, and that it is unsupported by any scientific reviews, documents or professional judgments, but rather is based on the opinions of the writer.
    “By granting the loan without following through, [Farm Services Agency] violated their own regulations,” and failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act, Cheri says. That alone could include gray bats from a nearby cave and the rabbitsfoot freshwater mussel that could be threatened if Big Creek and the Buffalo become polluted with animal waste.
    “Based on the significant number and degree of deficiencies identified within this [environmental assessment], we [believe] this project needs to be halted until we and the public and other stakeholders are afforded an opportunity to comment.” Cheri’s findings conclude: “… this project has the potential to significantly impact public safety and values.”

    No kidding! Why does this matter to us, my friends? Because the Buffalo National River was the first to be declared as such, with the intention of preserving the stream and its ecosystem as a precious natural treasure.

    As the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance website urges: “… seek policies that will build a wall around the Buffalo River watershed. If we lose this, we lose a part of ourselves.”
    The state’s Pollution Control and Ecology Commission was scheduled to convene yesterday in Little Rock. Its members probably got an earful about this proposed hog farm’s potential threats to the Buffalo watershed, as well they should have, although this group can’t stop the permit.

    It’s up to we the people of Arkansas to preserve this God-given wonder by serving as diligent stewards, which certainly includes battling contamination from mountains of hog waste. So join me and others now in speaking up to help preserving this remarkable gift.

    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at Read his blog at

  • 18 Mar 2013 3:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By RYAN McGEENEY, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette /Associated Press

    This article with a Fayetteville byline was picked up by AP and posted in Raleigh, NC
  • 11 Mar 2013 7:56 AM | Anonymous
    KUAF / NPR 91.3 FM is scheduled to report about the CAFO on the Big Creek Tributary of the Buffalo National River Tuesday March 12th at 12 (NOON) CST on their daily news hour 'Ozarks at Large' and the broadcast will be repeated at 7:00PM.

    You can stream at
    The show will be posted on the website. by 2 pm. Go to and scroll down to the “Ozarks at Large” section--to see that day's news hour, which will link you to the individual segments. You will see an image of the Buffalo River, illustrating the story.
    Or if you miss the broadcast that day here’s the direct link to the daily shows undefined but make sure to search that specific date:
  • 10 Mar 2013 8:25 PM | Anonymous
    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).

    Health Issues

    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.

    Economic Issues

    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.

    Land Rights

    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.


  • 10 Mar 2013 10:27 AM | Anonymous
    On Monday March 4th the Newton County Quorum Court heard testimony on the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) planned on Big Creek, a tributary just 5 miles from the Buffalo National River. NPS review of the supporting documentation found 45 areas of significant errors and omissions in the area of environmental impact. Concerns included inadequate monitoring provisions, the threat to the $38M BNR tourism economy, and the impact of Mount Judea Schools.

  • 10 Mar 2013 9:00 AM | Anonymous
    The second "Battle for the Buffalo River" will have many chapters. We begin here and now.  If we lose the battle to protect water quality, we lose it all. Our wild river will be dead.

    Nothing is more fundamental to the environment than water quality -- it is the first issue. We now know that threats to the watershed can come from anywhere, even agencies empowered to protect the environment can fall short of what is needed. Bureaucracies.grind down all but the most determined. We must change them. 

    Wisdom will be required to build consensus when we disagree about other issues. Those disagreements could prevent us from working together to protect the watershed. Some will try to pit us against one another, we need to stay united.

    Our work together will also require our dedication and vigilance over many years to monitor threats, and change policy at the local, state and federal level.  We are in for the long haul. 

    If the river is poisoned and killed because we can't work together, we will have nothing left to disagree about. We must unite to protect the BNR watershed and present a united front. The future of our wild river depends upon us getting this right. 
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