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  • 01 Nov 2013 7:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Hog factories a major threat to area
    Becky Gillette
    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    Halloween horror came early to Eureka Springs Monday when representatives from the Waterkeeper Alliance from North Carolina came to give personal reports backed up by photographic evidence of the devastating impacts from the production of eight to ten million hogs grown in the state’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Only this presentation wasn’t about mock horror done for fun during Halloween, but real life devastation of the environment and peoples’ lives from hog factories.

    There were photographs of lesions on people and fish caused by the blood sucking pfiesteria organisms linked to hog waste, and grizzly images of hundreds of dead pigs dumped in metal “dead boxes” or even on the ground. There was also video footage of rivers turned to red, rivers clogged with slimy algae caused by the excess nutrients, and hog waste being sprayed directly into ditches and streams leading to major waterways.

    Some attendees left the room, finding the scenes too difficult to watch. Even those already opposed to CAFOs, and in particular a new 4,500 hog factory in the Buffalo River Watershed, came away with an increased understanding of what could happen if Arkansas becomes the next target for siting large numbers of hog factories by an industry that is expanding because of increased demand from China for pork.

    The Waterkeepers spoke Monday night after a similar presentation earlier in the day in Jasper. They visited the Mount Judea School, and said odor from the hog factory is noticeable from the school even though the factory hasn’t yet started spraying waste.

    Larry Baldwin, the North Carolina CAFO Coordinator for the Waterkeeper Alliance, said CAFOs are one of the greatest threats to water quality in the U.S. and the world. Hogs grow rapidly, and produce eight to ten times as much waste as humans. The number of hogs being raised in North Carolina could be compared to the waste from 100,000 million people. But unlike with human waste, CAFOs are not required to install wastewater treatment plants. North Carolina CAFOs alone generate more waste than is produced by the entire country of Germany.

    “These are not family farms,” Baldwin said. “They are factories that are controlled by the industry with little regard for the impacts to neighbor’s health and property. These hog factories have impacts far beyond their borders. It is a local issue with global consequences. Without clean water, there can be no healthy life.”

    Baldwin also spoke of the high mortality rates from hogs being raised in close confinement. Twelve to 20 percent of the animals die. Some are taken to rendering plants where oil is extracted for cosmetics, and the remains used to make feed for animals – including hogs. Other times the dead hogs are simply buried in an area with a high water table where contamination from rotting carcasses can go directly into the groundwater.

    Other concerns he discussed include high rates of asthma and respiratory problems from residents who live near the facilities or children who go to school near the factories; antibiotic resistance from widespread use of antibiotics in the hog’s feed or water; environmental justice and animal welfare concerns; and the potential to spread disease to other animals and humans.

    “This is an industry that is out of control,” Baldwin said. “This is your water. This is your state. Don’t do it like we did it in North Carolina because we did it wrong.”

    He said there are environmentally sound waste treatment systems that have been developed for hog factories, but the industry that makes billions in profits claims they are too expensive.

    Rick Dove, a former commercial fisherman who is a founding director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, spoke about the devastation to fisheries caused by major tributaries like the Neuse River being “fertilized to death” by hog factories. “Year after year, North Carolina has seen hundreds of millions of fish killed,” he said.

    “We had no massive fish kills until we got the CAFO industry,” Dove said. “Too many nutrients can make the river sick. You get low oxygen from too much fertilizer and the fish die. The fishery and river are important to the whole economic base where we live.”

    The Neuse River, Dove said, was once a very beautiful river that attracted a lot of water-based recreation. But no one wants to swim in hog waste in waters contaminated with dangerous pathogens. The result has been devastating to the economy of the area, particularly tourism.

    Dove had personal experience with pfiesteria. When he and his son were fishing and were exposed to fumes from pfiesteria, they experienced temporary memory loss. That memory loss has been so bad that some fishermen can’t remember how to get back to the dock or home.

    “Once you bring in the factory farms, life will never be the same,” Dove said.

    Kelly Foster, senior attorney with the Waterkeeper Alliance, said not to expect environmental laws like the Clean Water Act to protect you because they won’t. CAFOs often claim to be “zero discharge” facilities, alleging no waste leaves the area so a wastewater permit is not needed. Although numerous studies have documented the hog waste getting into local rivers, the industry is so powerful that it has been able to evade properly treating its waste.

    “The environmental laws are all written by the industry,” she said.

    In North Carolina, the CAFOs are usually sited by streams or rivers, and the Waterkeepers believe this could be by design as a handy way to get rid of their waste. Foster said with the karst topography of the Ozarks, waste from hog farms is likely to leach into the ground and follow underwater fissures to emerge from the ground in a spring, river, lake or drinking water well. The Ozarks could be the “ideal” place for the hog waste to disappear.

    Foster said the Ozark water bodies are in various stages of death from nitrification (over-fertilization from sources such as the poultry CAFOs). Hog factories would make the problem much worse.

    “Stop them before they start,” Foster urged. “Organizing your communities is the only way to stop the CAFOs.”

    Many states have put moratoriums on new hog factories. In North Carolina, there is a ban on new spray fields. But the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has adopted a “general permit” that makes it easy for CAFOs to get permits without – in the case of the hog factory near the Buffalo River – proper notification to state and federal agencies, and the public. The Waterkeepers said Arkansas could very well be a target for hog factories expansions because they have been blocked in other states from expanding, and Arkansas has made it easy to get permits.
  • 31 Oct 2013 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Warning: hogs worse than smell; Hammerschmidt pushed to protect Buffalo National River

    Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 1:45 am

    By DWAIN LAIR dwainl@harrisondaily.com  

    Retired Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt encouraged a group of about 50 people Tuesday night to press on and spread the word that the Buffalo National River is imperiled by a corporate hog farm.
    “It is important to continue to raise the general public’s knowledge and is important to get the word out the best you can manage,” he stressed.
    The retired congressman, who led the fight in Congress to protect the Buffalo River as a national park, said he wouldn’t be surprised at a remedy coming through litigation or a political remedy to turn back the issue.
    The meeting was hosted by Buffalo River Watershed Alliance to address a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) with 6,500 hogs near Big Creek at Mt. Judea in the Buffalo National River watershed. C&H Hog Farm is owned by cousins Richard Campbell, Phillip Campbell and Jason Henson and was financed by a $3.4 million loan.
    The alliance has been upset about the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality granting a permit for the hog operation without holding a public meeting in the area or requiring the legal notice to be published in a local newspaper.
    Elva Kelly of Yellville introduced Hammerschmidt, saying she wanted to thank the person responsible for keeping the Buffalo River natural all this years for people to enjoy. She then showed a video presentation on C&H Hog Farm and its feared consequences.
    The video said C&H Hog Farm would generate 2 million gallons of hog waste annually, and that waste will be spread over 600 acres in the Buffalo River watershed. Gordon Watkins of Newton County said in the video that residents don’t want more CAFOs, and Mt. Judea resident Jewell Fowler said she fears the operation would contaminate water and make people sick.
    Kelly then introduced Rick Dove and Larry Baldwin of the Waterkeeper Alliance. They said they were in Arkansas to share a lot of background information on issues that residents will have to deal with in the future They narrated a power-point presentation on CAFO hog farms in North Carolina, and the farms’ impact on ecosystems, and related tourism and tourism economy.
    Dove and Baldwin traced North Carolina’s problem back to 1991 when 1 billion fish rolled up dead in a major kill. They blamed that fish kill and succeeding fish kills that occur almost every year on three factors undefined low oxygen, Pfiesteria and excess nutrient levels. They said researchers have blamed those issues on CAFOs and pollution.
    “They just keep dying,” they said of the fish kills. “That’s not normal.”
    They said waters are oxygen rich during the day, then plants clogging the water use up the oxygen at night. They said that forces all types of fish and sealife into shallow water in their chase for oxygen.
    A warning sign posted to alert people not to get in water or swim because of Pfiesteria. They said the it is toxic to animals and causes ulcers and eats flesh of fish and people who come in contact with it.
    Excess nutrients are caused by too much fertilizer that runs off farmlands and fills waterways.
    Dove and Baldwin said many pollution concerns deal with excessive amounts of phosphorus in the water, but they warned nitrogen is another major problem. They said it rises into the air, and 100 percent falls back to earth.
    The men said they had visited Mt. Judea and could smell the hog farm. They blamed that smell on ammonia, which they said will fall to the earth in the form of nitrogen. They warned that the ammonia smell could reach Jasper, when hog waste is spread on fields.
    Analyzing North Carolina’s livestock operations, they said it has 700 million chickens, 40 million turkeys and 10 million hogs. They said it also has the world’s largest pork processing plant, a Smithfield operation that can slaughter 35,000 hogs per day.
    Their powerpoint presentation included scenes inside a CAFO hog farm, a condition they compared to a prisoner-of-war camp.
    The Buffalo River Water Shed Alliance, the Arkansas Canoe Club, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Ozark Society has filed a federal lawsuit over the permit and the hog farm and names defendants as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal and state Small Business Administration, the federal and state Farm Service Agency and directors of each entity.

  • 30 Oct 2013 5:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Publication:Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Date:Oct 22, 2013; Section:Arkansas; Page Number:7

    New take on water repealed
    Law said to clash with federal act

    After months of revising existing water regulations to comply with new state water-quality standards, staff members at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality must now revert to the state’s original and long-held interpretation of the federal Clean Water Act.

    After last week’s threeday special legislative session, Gov. Mike Beebe signed Act 4 into law Monday, repealing changes to the state’s interpretation of the federal act. Those changes were a part of Act 954, which passed during the regular 2013 legislative session earlier this year and went into effect Aug. 16.

    Act 954 changed the way stream flows in Arkansas waterways were calculated, allowing municipalities and industrial centers with water-discharge permits to discharge greater amounts of minerals, including sulphates and chlorides, into waterways. The act also removed the default assumption that all waterways in Arkansas were potential sources of drinking water, unless otherwise determined by scientific study.

    Both Act 954 and its repeal were written by state Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock. Although Davis argued the bill was a “common-sense” approach to regulation, department administrators and environmental activists warned throughout the lawmaking process that the legislation would likely put the state out of compliance with federal law.

    In late August, about a week after Act 954 went into effect, administrators at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 office in Dallas terminated its “waiver of review” over the state’s permitting authority for permits affected by Act 954, in effect partially federalizing the permit process. In September, members of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission warned that municipalities and industries that initially supported Davis’s legislation may soon wish for a return to the original standards.

    Calls to Davis on Monday were not returned.

    Because Act 4 contains an emergency clause, it will go into effect immediately. Environmental Quality Department spokesman Katherine Benenati said Monday that she was not sure how this would affect water-discharge permits now under review by the department or the EPA, and that the department would be “working through” the issue throughout the week.

    The EPA Region 6 office currently has 14 Arkansas water-discharge permits under review, all of which were affected by Act 954. Benenati said last week that the federal agency has until mid-November to state specific objections to the permits, which were temporarily in limbo during the partial shutdown of the federal government.

    A spokesman with the EPA Region 6 office did not respond to requests for comment on the fate of the 14 permits.

    Bill Kopsky, executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, said he was pleased to see state law returned to compliance with federal guidelines.

    “The bottom line is that the Clean Water Act is still the law of the land in Arkansas,” Kopsky said. “If we had been allowed to skirt federal law, that would be a dangerous precedent.”
  • 26 Oct 2013 8:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    From Arkansas Times (read comments)

    Pork producers suggest more danger to Buffalo River from people than pigs
    Posted by Max Brantley on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    CAUTION: People use the Buffalo River and they're more damaging than pigs, the Arkansas Pork Producers say.

    The campaign against a mass hog feeding operation in the Buffalo National River watershed is generating enough heat that the agricultural industry is fighting back.

    On the jump, find an opinion article written under the name of an Arkansas Pork Producers Association executive. It defends the Cargill-supplied mass feeder pig operation at Mount Judea, along a Buffalo tributary. Themes: Pig farmers love the Buffalo River. They're trying to preserve a dying industry. Fears of contamination from the tons of pig manure produced by the operation are based on "extraordinarily unlikely what if" scenarios.

    The pork producers propound that the immediate pollution problem is not pig poop but people poop. Yes, people.

    See, the National Park Service puts treated waste on cropland and into the river under permit. 1.5 million visitors put bacteria in the water.

    Until the resources being spent by activists are redirected to mitigate actual Buffalo River pollution, not imagined pollution based on speculation and fear mongering, their efforts are as disingenuous as any accusations they apply to others.

    If you don't believe the Pork Producers, just ask the Farm Bureau or owners of C&H Hog Farm. They'll straighten you out.

    The opinion piece was distributed from a personal e-mail account. The name on the account is the same as that of someone who once worked for a Little Rock PR firm employee, but I haven't heard back yet from the sender about her employer; who's paying for distribution, and whether the named author had help in the writing.

    UPDATE: Caitlin Berry, an employee of Heathcott Associates, a PR firm, confirms she circulated the piece as "volunteer" work for the pork producers because her agency works with agriculture agencies in doing promotional work for the State Fair. She said Masters gave it to her to distribute.

    Attached is an opinion editorial from Mr. Jerry Masters, Executive Vice-President of Arkansas Pork Producers Association, regarding C & H Hog Farms from northwest Arkansas. Mr. Masters' letter was prepared as an answer to the latest attacks from out-of-state special interests groups that have recently targeted C & H and their legal farming operation.

    Buffalo River Opinion-Editorial

    Nobody wants to see the water quality of the Buffalo River adversely impacted. That list includes farmers, agribusiness companies, and other ag-related associations, as well as the State of Arkansas. Arkansans wouldn’t know that from reading recent weekly newspaper columns or listening to the information being disseminated by those who oppose a swine farm that was built earlier this year in Newton County, C&H Hog Farm. C & H followed all the appropriate government permit approvals that are in place.

    The expansion took place in a rural area of Northwest Arkansas that has been involved in crop, hog, poultry and beef cattle production for generations – long before the Buffalo River received its national designation half-a-century-ago. Poultry barns, cattle herds and hog farms remain part of the area’s economy, and part of the state’s $16 billion annual economic benefit from agriculture. Agriculture remains a key component of the Arkansas economy. However in recent years, hog production has left Arkansas. For example, today there are 85% fewer hogs produced in Arkansas than a decade ago.

    Since last winter, when the superintendent of the Buffalo National River complained about the permitting process used by the State of Arkansas to allow the family owned farm in Newton County to expand hog production, some individuals and environmental organizations have expressed concerns. Those concerns, at times reaching a fever pitch, are based on an extraordinarily unlikely “what if” scenario whereby hog manure gets loose from the thick clay walls of the farm’s over-engineered storage lagoons built to 150% of state-mandated capacity.

    The flames of fear have been fanned and exploited by some who have expressed opposition to state government, agriculture, and large scale food production. They have attacked the farmers’ motives (making a living by hog farming); assailed the values, ethics, morals and intent of the company buying the farm’s hogs (Cargill); and have tried to generate opposition by comparing the Newton County farm with large scale hog production in other states.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance has been founded specifically with the mission to shut down this farm. Activists from New York, California, North Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma and other states have aligned themselves with efforts to purge this family farm from Newton County. Now, a New York based group called Waterkeepers is travelling around Arkansas trying to convince people that hog waste from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) will lead to inevitable environmental catastrophe. Earlier this year, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette nailed this type of activity on the head by labeling it “Environmental McCarthyism.”

    Yes, the hog farm with its 2,500 sows is designated a “CAFO” by the State of Arkansas. It’s the first designated CAFO in Arkansas. It’s the largest designated CAFO in Arkansas. It’s also the smallest and only CAFO in Arkansas. Those opposed to the farm would have Arkansans believe the door has been opened and there will be a stampede of CAFOs into the state that leaves a swath of devastation. Instead, the sad fact is that 85% of the hog production has fled Arkansas over the past decade and it isn’t coming back.

    The river itself is a victim of sorts in this debate. If it could talk, the Buffalo River would probably say the following:

    Let’s fix the things currently impacting my water quality;

    Stop dumping treated human sewage from the National Park Service restrooms into my water (National Park Service is the permittee);
    Please fix or replace the leaky septic tanks in the watershed;

    Don’t complain about the C&H Farm spreading hog waste on hayfields when the National Park Service spreads treated human waste on croplands in the Buffalo River Watershed (National Park Service is the permittee);

    1.5 million human visitors each year introduce a lot of bacteria to my water, so let’s not ignore that impact;

    While we’re at it, do we still need those National Park Service signs along the river that warn people about polluted water and high bacteria counts from the yearlong raw sewage spill by the town of Jasper in 2009?

    Until the resources being spent by activists are redirected to mitigate actual Buffalo River pollution, not imagined pollution based on speculation and fear mongering, their efforts are as disingenuous as any accusations they apply to others. The Arkansas Farm Bureau, C&H Hog Farm, the State of Arkansas, The University of Arkansas, The Nature Conservancy, Cargill and others truly interested in the long-term stewardship of the area’s nature resources, prefer to work on solutions undefined which they are doing undefined and not to attack others.

    -Jerry Masters
  • 24 Oct 2013 8:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    7-city lecture tour targets hog farm
    Buffalo River group fears large operation is just the fi rst
    By Ryan McGeeney
    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is sponsoring a seven-city tour to spread the message that large-scale farming operations rarely show up alone.

    Elva Kelly, a board member and spokesman for the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said the guest speakers will appear in seven cities - Fayetteville, Yellville, Jasper, Eureka Springs, Harrison, Mountain Home and Little Rock.

    Kelly said the goals of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance were, first, to fight for the closure of C&H Hog Farms, a large-scale concentrated animal-feeding operation in Mount Judea in Newton County. The group’s second objective is to preserve and protect the Buffalo National River and its surrounding watershed from environmental threats.

    The watershed alliance is among the organizations and activists who have made several attempts to get the State Environmental Quality Department to revoke C&H Hog Farms’ operational permits over the past several months.

    Rick Dove, a founding member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, is one of four speakers who will be presenting during the tour over the next week, beginning Friday in Fayetteville.

    “For [the hog-farming] industry to make big dollars, they have to concentrate everything as tightly as possible,” said Dove, who was traveling Wednesday to Fayetteville from his home in North Carolina. “So when you get one factory farm, if you think that’s all you’re going to have, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you. That’s not the way they operate. If they have their eye on one, expect hundreds or even thousands of operations to come.”

    Dove was referring to C&H Hog Farms. Although hog farming in Arkansas is nothing new, C&H is the first such operation to receive a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for water discharge from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

    The farm, which is permitted to house about 2,500 full-grown sows and as many as 4,000 piglets at one time, contracts with Cargill Inc., an international food production corporation.

    The Waterkeeper Alliance is a nonprofit based in New York City, with the goal of championing “clean water and strong communities.”

    “For the last 20 years, I’ve watched what factory farm swine operations have done to rivers, air, fish and wildlife,” Dove said. “It’s not a very pretty picture. In North Carolina, there’s a permanent ban on the waste lagoons and spray fields they use in these operations, so they’re going to other states.”

    Although Dove said food producers like Cargill will likely begin trying to expand large-scale animal operations throughout the country, Katherine Benenati, a spokesman for the Environmental Quality Department, said Wednesday that the department hasn’t seen any evidence of such expansion in Arkansas.

    “To date [C&H Hog Farms is] the only [such operation] in the state. We haven’t heard of any plans for additional notices of intent from other parties seeking coverage under the [concentrated-feeding] permit,” Benenati said in an email Wednesday.

    Cargill spokesman Mike Martin has previously said that Cargill contracts with about 750 farms across the country, most of which are “finishing farms” that raise pigs until they reach an ideal slaughter weight of about 275 pounds. Mark Klein, a Cargill spokesman in Minneapolis, said Wednesday that Cargill currently contracts with 88 hog farms in Arkansas but has no plans to expand in the state.

    The owners of C&H Hog Farms have agreements with nearby landowners to use approximately 630 acres of grasslands to apply waste from hogs as nutrient-rich fertilizer. This has raised concern among environmental activists because most of the underlying topography in Newton County is karst, which permits groundwater to flow freely through caves and rocky channels, and because some of the spray fields abut Big Creek, a major tributary to the Buffalo National River.

    Calls to Jason Henson, co-owner and president of C&H, were not returned Wednesday.

    Dove and the other speakers - Don Webb, a former owner of an animal-feeding operation in North Carolina; Larry Baldwin, the Waterkeeper Alliance’s coordinator on factory-farm matters in North Carolina; and Kelly Foster, an attorney with the alliance - were invited to speak in Arkansas by members of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, which organized earlier this year over concerns that pollution from C&H could damage not only the ecology of the Buffalo National River but also the economy that depends on it as well.

    Groups including the watershed alliance, the Arkansas Canoe Club and the National Parks Conservation Association have argued that the original environmental assessment of the farm and the surrounding area, conducted by the Farm Service Agency’s Arkansas branch, was inadequate, and that the agency failed to coordinate with other agencies including the National Park Service and the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission on the hog farm’s permit, as required by law.

    The watershed alliance also is party to a lawsuit filed in August against the federal government, claiming that both the Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Administration were negligent in providing loan guarantees for the construction of C&H Hog Farms.

    Pete Nichols is director of the Waterkeeper Alliance. The current organization was founded in 1999, but traces its roots to 1966, when a coalition of New York fishermen, dismayed at the degraded state of the Hudson River, began looking for ways to reverse the industrial pollution. Using the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the organization began collecting rewards from the federal government for turning in polluters, and used the proceeds to fund lawsuits against other, larger polluters. According to the website, the alliance connects more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations on six continents.

    The tour’s first event is Friday at 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church, 224 N. East Ave. in Fayetteville. A fundraiser follows at the home of former Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody.

    Arkansas, Pages 11 on 10/24/2013

  • 19 Oct 2013 3:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alliance warns and informs
    By Mike Masterson

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is sounding an alarm to warn of the potential storm of hog factories approaching Arkansas.

    The nonprofit group’s forewarning comes in the form of a seven-city educational tour of public meetings it’s sponsoring beginning next Friday in Fayetteville and concluding a week later in Little Rock. Good for the alliance and the crucial awareness it’s freely spreading.
    At their sessions, four national Waterkeeper Alliance experts will explain the disastrous environmental and health effects of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), especially in North Carolina. That once-pristine state has been despoiled by hog-factory waste and the speakers will explain what we can expect if Arkansas officials and lawmakers allow corporate hog factories to pollute our precious public waterways.

    We took our first giant step toward a similar fate in 2012 when the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) unbelievably approved the state’s first hog CAFO under the new General Permit in the state’s karst-porous Buffalo National River watershed at Mount Judea.
    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance website says it was formed in 2013 specifically to protect and preserve America’s first stream to be designated as a national river within the national parks system. The Alliance is one of several groups that have coalesced in what’s become known as “The Battle for the Buffalo-Again” to fight the wrongheaded permitting of C&H Hog Farms.

    CAFOs mass-produce meat by confining thousands of animals into small spaces. The C&H hog factory near Big Creek in Newton County is contracted to Cargill Inc. Big Creek is a major tributary of the Buffalo in Arkansas’ most environmentally sensitive area. With up to 6,500 pigs, C&H will spread about 2 million gallons of hog waste annually over fields adjacent to Big Creek.

    The first of the Alliance’s seven gatherings begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct.25 at Fayetteville’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with one of the four experts, Rick Dove of North Carolina, explaining his experiences. Dove tells me he’ll warn not to let “the swine industry do to Arkansas what it’s done to us in North Carolina.” A fundraising bonfire will follow.

    A military veteran who last served as a military courts-martial judge, Dove was a commercial fisherman until fish and fishermen alike began developing sores. In 1991, after more than a billion lesion-covered fish perished in the state’s Neuse River, Dove returned to practicing law until the Neuse Riverkeeper position became available in 1993.

    Dove’s responsibility as Riverkeeper was to restore and protect the Neuse and its tributaries. And it became apparent from observation and scientific studies that the swine industry’s factory practices were largely responsible for the degradation of the Neuse and other rivers in eastern North Carolina. He said their waters are impaired by nutrient pollution (fertilizer), a leading cause of algae blooms and fish kills.

    “We’ve fought to stop factory farms from destroying streams, polluting air and groundwater and tearing at the fabric of our communities,” he said. “While successful in passing a state law that prevents this industry from constructing further cesspool lagoons and spray fields on new and expanding farms, we’re stuck with approximately 2,500 existing facilities still operating in the environmentally sensitive area of the state’s coastal plain,” he said. “The industrial facilities spray raw hog waste onto ditched fields which connect to our rivers and streams.”

    Professor Mark Sobsey of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered that hogs produce 10 times the fecal matter of humans. That means the 10 million swine in the coastal plain of eastern North Carolina generate as much daily waste as about a third of the population of the United States, that waste running into streams and permeating the air with toxic gases such as ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulfide.

    Dove and the other speakers with similar horror stories want Arkansas to learn from North Carolina. “The industry can’t build new facilities in North Carolina any more using open cesspools and sprayfields. This outhouse technology uses our air, groundwater and rivers and streams as a part of the disposal system. There are alternatives we’ve developed … that, while a bit more costly than the lagoon and sprayfield system, have proved more effective in managing waste and protecting the environment,” he told me. “The swine industry could use these new technologies but won’t. Instead, they are moving to other states where they can still use the cheaper, highly polluting cesspool/sprayfield method.”

    These informative CAFO confabs will be 1 p.m. on Oct. 26 at Yellville’s First Presbyterian Church; 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 28 in Jasper at Carroll County Electric, and later that same day at 5:30 at 17 Elk St. in Eureka Springs; 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 in Harrison at North Arkansas College’s Durand Center; 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 30 in Mountain Home at the Reynolds Library, and twice more in that city at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. at ASU’s McMullin Lecture Hall; and finally in Little Rock on Oct. 31 in the Central Arkansas Library System Main Library’s Darragh Center Auditorium at noon and again at 5:30 p.m.
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.

  • 08 Oct 2013 1:27 PM | Anonymous

    The Buffalo Flows” an excellent documentary produced by the University of Arkansas about the Buffalo National River, will be shown on Saturdays at 1 p.m. through Thanksgiving weekend at the Buffalo Theater in Jasper.

    No one can see as much of the river in a canoe, as you will see on our screen.

    Admission is $1 per person at the door

  • 08 Oct 2013 10:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    One river’s purity

    What about Buffalo?

    By Mike Masterson

    The multinational food giant Cargill Inc. of Minnesota was generous enough to donate $50,000 toward promoting better understanding of water-quality issues and improving water quality in the Illinois River of Northwest Arkansas. Yet it has provided nothing to help geoscientist John Van Brahana analyze the water quality around C&H Hog Farms, which Cargill supplies in nearby Newton County’s Buffalo National River watershed.

    Last November, Cargill announced it would contribute to the Illinois River Watershed Partnership to help develop a 30-acre watershed sanctuary and educational complex at Cave Springs.

    That watershed includes the border region between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The partnership is a collaboration of groups that understandably care about the Illinois and preserving its purity.

    Those who’ve followed my opinions over the months already know how the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) took only about 40 days last year to permit the hog breeding factory in the Buffalo National River watershed.

    The state allows the C&H operation at Mount Judea to house up to 6,500swine in the karst-riddled county and dispose of their waste in fields along Big Creek, a major tributary of the pristine Buffalo National River.

    Cargill is the sole provider and purchaser of the C&H hogs and has previously said that, despite the pervasive honeycombed limestone, it sees no potential problem with C&H hog waste contaminating the Buffalo.

    The same state that wrongheadedly approved the hog factory in the most environmentally inappropriate location possible now has approved at least $340,000 in taxpayer funds for a university group (by next spring) to monitor the possible contamination resulting from its own approval.

    But Brahana, a geoscientist and former professor at the University of Arkansas, months ago began his own baseline water-quality monitoring program along the Buffalo watershed at his own expense. Since the hog factory began operating last summer, Brahana and a team of volunteers, assisted by two laboratories, have been testing water quality in local wells and springs and will soon begin subsurface dye testing.He’s even volunteered to assist the state-proposed monitoring efforts. But the state declined.

    Neither Cargill nor the hog-factory owners have offered to financially assist Brahana’s efforts. Yet it’s a different story when it comes to the Illinois River watershed, the phosphorus contamination of which by poultry industry waste for years has been the source of legal dispute between Arkansas and Oklahoma. Seems to me there must be an inexplicable difference in the way Cargill views ensuring water quality in the Illinois River watershed and that of the nation’s first national river.

    Shane Acosta, Cargill’s general manager for the turkey-processing plant in Springdale, said of the Illinois River donation: “Fresh water is one of our most treasured natural resources … and we understand the importance and need for educating people about the life giving liquid we often take for granted. We all have to play a role in conserving resources, and Cargill places a great deal of importance on educating people about what it will take to feed the global population increase … including the proper management of our water resources.”

    Do you suppose an equal $50,000 contribution from Cargill would help Brahana and his volunteer team do an even better job of testing the water quality of this “lifegiving liquid we often take for granted?”

    The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was the developer of the watershed sanctuary project. Cargill’s contribution represented a chunk of the nearly $1 million of the overall cost.

    Why, it’s no wonder our state government appreciates these generous folks at Cargill so much.

    Meanwhile, Brahana labors on along the Buffalo National River watershed using an unexpected and appreciated donation of $4,000 from the Ozark Society, which can’t help but keep his head above the muck for a while.
  • 04 Oct 2013 2:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hog-farm tests to start in 2014

    Leader: UA role is research

    By Ryan McGeeney

    Posted: October 4, 2013 at 2:28 a.m.

    FAYETTEVILLE - Soil and water testing in the areas surrounding a hog farm in Newton County will begin in late winter or early spring of 2014, a University of Arkansas Agriculture Division researcher said Thursday.

    Andrew Sharpley, a professor with the university’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, was recently appointed to lead a team of researchers in monitoring possible environmental effects associated with C&H Hog Farms, a large animal-feeding operation in Mount Judea.

    The Arkansas Legislature approved more than $340,000 to fund the project in September, after the farm - as well as the permitting and approval procedures of several state agencies - drew months of intense public scrutiny.

    “It’s still a bit of a work in progress - we still have some questions, and nothing’s set in stone. In the field, things happen. But these are our overarching goals,” said Sharpley, beforedescribing a series of nutrients and pathogens researchers plan to test for beginning next year.

    Sharpley addressed a meeting ofthe Fayetteville Rotary Club at a Fayetteville restaurant. The address was arranged by Chuck Culver, director of development for the Agriculture Division and an assistant district governor for the Rotary Club. The district includes 82 clubs in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.

    The farm, which is permitted to house about 2,500 adult pigs and as many as 4,000 piglets at any time, is also permitted to spread the pig manure over about 630 acres of grasslands around the operation. The acreage is divided into 17 fields, some of which belong to the farm owners, while others are leased from outside parties. Several of the fields abut Big Creek, a major tributary to the Buffalo National River.

    Sharpley said he had received permission from the landowners of three of the 17 fields to install equipment that will test for phosphorus and other nutrients in soil and surface water.

    Sharpley said he also plans to do dye trace tests, in which traceable chemicals are introduced to a groundwater system at a given point, then monitored to discover where they appear in surface waters. The testing method is crucial in areas such as Newton County where a karst geology is present and has been a top request of critics of the farm, including hydrologist Van Brahana, a former UA professor who has been conducting his own water-quality testing regime in the Buffalo National River near the farm.

    Sharpley, who was appointed to lead the research by Agriculture Division Vice President Mark Cochran, said neither the university nor his team was engaging in the research to support any viewpoint on the hog farm.

    “We’re a university, not a regulatory agency,” Sharpley said. “Our mission is to provide sound science for others to develop the guidelines to manage this type of operation.”

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