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  • 15 May 2013 7:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    ADH says hog waste could threaten health of swimmers in Buffalo
  • 15 May 2013 6:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Northwest Arkansas Times

    Officials Boost E. Coli Testing In River, Creek

    Opening Of C&H Hog Farms Elevates Concern For Buffalo

    By Ryan McGeeney
    Posted: May 15, 2013 at 3:16 a.m.
    Administrators with the Buffalo National River have increased the frequency of E. coli monitoring at the river’s confluence with Big Creek near Hasty from quarterly to weekly.
    Faron Usrey, an aquatic ecologist with the river, said he began collecting weekly samples the first week of March at three monitoring stations in an effort to determine whether C&H Hog Farms, the recently constructed concentrated animal feeding operation in Mount Judea, is affecting the level of fecal coli form entering the Buffalo River.
    “We’ve started a weekly sample just to get a background level of E. coli in the river,” Usrey said.
    The 23-acre C&H Hog Farms is permitted to house about 2,500 full grown sows and as many as 4,000 piglets. The owners of the farm have land-use agreements for about 630 acres where hog manure from the farm can be spread as fertilizer.
    Jason Henson, co-owner of the farm with his cousins Philip and Richard Campbell, said in an interview last week that Cargill Inc. began delivering sows to the facility in early May. Henson expects the farm to reach its full operating capacity within three months.
    Although the farm’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requires buffer zones of more than 100 feet from waterways, environmental advocates have voiced concern that heavy rains may wash residual nutrients into groundwater and the waterways.
    Buffalo River administrators take samples from Big Creek just before its confluence with the Buffalo and from stations both above and below the confluence. Situating the stations that way allows officials to distinguish how pollutants are entering the river, Usrey said.
    The samples are analyzed to identify the number of E. coli colonies within 100 milliliters of water. In freshwater bodies used for recreational activities such as swimming, the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidance sets acceptable levels of E. coli at 298 colonies per 100 milliliters.
    According to data supplied by Usrey, weekly sample analysis from the three sites around the confluence of Big Creek and the Buffalo National River range from as little as three colonies in a sample collected March 27 at the Carver access site to as high as 131 colonies in a sample collected March 20 at the same location.
    “The samples we’ve taken have been extremely low, especially considering the size of the creek,” Usrey said.
    On Monday, the National Park Service published a four year assessment of E. coli levels in the Buffalo National River. The report, authored by Usrey, lists 35 water-quality monitoring sites along the Buffalo National River, 23 of which monitor tributaries near their confluence with the river. Nine monitor water within the river itself, and another three sites monitor water quality at Luallen Spring, Mitch Hill Spring and Gilbert Spring.
    The report said that E. coli concentrations generally were well within standards set by the federal Clean Water Act and the Department of Environmental Quality. Higher levels of E. coli were measured at the river’s Ponca access point, the confluence with Tomahawk Creek in Searcy County and the Mill Creek confluence.
    Buffalo National River officials have posted warnings about the presence of E. coli on the Buffalo near Mill Creek since 2010, after a sewage treatment plant in Marble Falls failed, discharging raw sewage into the Buffalo tributary. The discharge began in January 2009 and continued for more than a year before the town was able to borrow a pump from the Arkansas Rural Water Association and route the sewage to a waste-treatment plant.
    The Mill Creek warning signs are still posted, said Kevin Cheri, Buffalo National River superintendent. Park administrators are only now beginning to discuss whether the water quality has recovered to the point that administrators may remove the signs.
    Usrey said it costs about $30 to analyze each water sample for the presence of E. coli. Usrey uses an analysis system developed by IDEXX laboratories that causes the E. coli colonies to become phosphorescent in the sample tube, visible under a black light.
    Usrey estimated the park would need to add about $30,000 to its annual budget to hire an additional technician to monitor, analyze and report weekly samples from the Big Creek confluence, and to pay for the testing material itself. Considering that the park is operating under an effective 10 percent budget cut - the result of four years of declining National Park Service budgets and a 6 percent cut enacted through the federal budget sequester - Cheri said finding the funding for an additional position would be a challenge.
    “The park is strapped,” Cheri said. “We have closures and reduced services, so that luxury is not there. We’ve contacted our regional office, and it’s under consideration as an ‘emergency need.’”
    Cheri said he had considered contacting other state agencies for financial assistance in funding the additional position.

    Northwest Arkansas, Pages 7 on 05/15/2013
  • 15 May 2013 6:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    From Arkansas Times:

    Buffalo River Watershed Alliance asks revocation of hog farm permit

    Posted by Max Brantley on Wed, May 15, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and others have written to Teresa Marks, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, asking her to revoke the permit issued for the C&H factory hog farm at Mount Judea, near a major tributary to the Buffalo River.
    The letter says Marks had once said she'd revoke the permit if significant errors were found in the application.

    The Alliance, at this link, lists in some detail what it believes to be significant shortcomings. To name but one, the Alliance says an environmental assessment by the Farm Services Administration had "45 significant errors, misstatements, inaccuracies and other problems." Among others, the National Park Service was not notified about the hog feeding operation undefined which will produce waste from 6,500 pigs undefined and excluded from the assessment of impact despite the farm's presence in the national river's watershed.

    Little Rock lawyer Hank Bates sent the letter in behalf of the Alliance, the Ozark Society, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Arkansas Canoe Club. His letter specifically objects to the nutrient management plan. It says the plan calls for spreading hog waste laden with phosphorous onto fields that already have more phosphorous than they need. Inevitably, rain will put the phosphorous into the streams, which will produce algae and alter the Buffalo River ecosystem.
  • 13 May 2013 7:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Guest writer

    Our heritage, too

    Hogs pose no danger to Buffalo


    No one loves the Buffalo River more than my 7-year-old daughter. She swims, fishes and enjoys that national river. It is one of the great benefits of living and raising a family in Newton County.
    So imagine my surprise when our efforts to farm are being called by some an all-out assault on the water quality of the Buffalo River.
    Yes, I am the hog farmer whose proposal was reviewed and approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in compliance with standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. That decision seems to have set off a firestorm in some people’s minds.
    Simply mentioning “hog farm” and “Buffalo River” in the same sentence has people assuming some catastrophic event.
    What most don’t realize is the extensive safeguards we have in place to avoid such an event. The hog farm, which I own with my cousins Richard and Phillip Campbell, was designed by a licensed engineering firm. It includes the latest technologies and efficiencies. In fact, our farm exceeds several of the Department of Environmental Quality and EPA standards, not because we are required to do that, but because of our interest in protecting this watershed, the Buffalo River and the visitors to this great treasure.
    My cousins and I are environmentalists. That’s our heritage. I learned to swim in Big Creek, which runs through our farm and feeds into the Buffalo River about five miles from our property. To say that we would do anything to contaminate those waters is ludicrous.
    We are a small family-owned farm, not the “corporate farm” others have portrayed us to be. We are honored as a past winner of the Newton County Farm Family of the Year award. We were born and raised in this county, and eight generations of our family have called this area home. Eight generations.
    My family’s roots run deep in our rocky soil, and we hope to be here for generations to come.
    Yet some question our motives and sensibilities when it comes to the way we make our living. Frankly, they are barking up the wrong tree.
    My cousins have operated a hog farm in this area for the past 12 years, with no violations or issues. We intend to keep it that way. The process to meet the standards set forth by the Department of Environmental Quality and EPA were extensive and took two years to complete. It was only after that was completed that we were allowed to secure the loans necessary for the farm at this location.
    Yet some act like we will be dumping hog manure straight into the Buffalo River. I realize that is a sensational and attention-grabbing thought. But the fact is we are engineered for that not to happen, but that’s not nearly as dramatic, inflammatory or attention-grabbing.
    Some discount our track record of success and our history of stewardship while they react with raw emotion. They ignore common sense, without realizing we are actually on the same side of environmental stewardship.
    Newton County is one of the poorer counties in the state, and our school district, Mount Judea, is one of the smallest. While our family farm will only employ eight to 12 people, it brings much-needed jobs and tax dollars to the county and school district. Officials with the school district, the Newton County Judge and the Newton County Quorum Court, along with many of the people of Newton County, support our efforts and see the benefits this brings to our area.
    We are a small community. We see our neighbors every day. I want to be able to look at my neighbors in the eye and say I am doing what I am supposed to be doing to protect my farm, my family, our land and the Buffalo River.
    The Buffalo River watershed means a lot to us. We live here. I’m not some government official who gets paid to look after these waters.
    We do it because we love where we live.
    I want my daughter to carry on this legacy of stewardship and farming. Hopefully, when she has children, they will enjoy farming as much as we do, and pass that on for many generations to come.
    What everyone needs to know is that we will continue our work to protect all of our natural resources, not because someone clamors for it, but rather for our children and future generations. That’s the farmers’ way.
    Jason Henson is one of the owners of C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea.

    Court battle looms over hogs

    Mike Masterson

    It was inevitable that forces intent on preserving the ecology of the pristine Buffalo River would challenge the government’s approval of that industrial hog farm at Mount Judea.
    I predict the announcement this week of a pending lawsuit against the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the beginning of what could be a lengthy court fight to protect our nation’s first national river.
    And as lawyers likely begin their discovery process, many like me are hoping the cherished river will emerge victorious.
    The plaintiffs: a coalition that includes the National Parks Conservation Association, the Ozark Society and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. The suit is to be pursued by the public-interest law firm Earthjustice.
    Among other revelations, I’m hoping the depositions from this suit can also help explain the questionable omissions in the environmental assessment report and explore the relationship between the official who oversaw it and his wife’s relationship to the farm’s owners.
    “This factory farm will produce massive quantities of waste just six miles from the Buffalo River, and that waste will be spread on land that is right next to one of the Buffalo’s major tributaries,” said Emily Jones of the National Parks Conservation Association. “We are talking about one of the most beautiful areas in the country. To think that our government would allow this hog factory in the watershed without examining its impacts is unconscionable.”
    I have nothing against these veteran farmers who’ve contracted with Cargill to feed and raise thousands of that international corporation’s hogs. I feel certain they care about the environment and how well they manage their business.
    Ordinarily I’d argue we live in a society where each citizen can freely pursue a livelihood within reason. But the potential here for affecting thousands of other lives definitely exists. Ask those in states such as North Carolina and Iowa where contaminants and odor from overflowing hog waste have choked once-clean and beautiful streams. It got so bad in North Carolina that the state was forced to declare a moratorium on the polluting hog factories.
    To my knowledge, the C&H hog farmers have yet to undertake such a CAFO with thousands of these animals generating millions of gallons of waste so close to Big Creek, a primary tributary of the Buffalo River.
    The issue for me is a matter of snouts and tails. The snout is the farmers’ conceded abilities and concern. The tail is placing this farm in such a sensitive area where accidents, human error and a fractured substructure just beneath the topsoil create an untenable risk. It’s this tail that disturbs so many. Arkansans and others don’t want this national river’s purity needlessly put at potential riskundefinedperiod, exclamation point.
    Irecently asked Mike Martin, a public relations and communications spokesperson for Cargill, if his corporation had met with people from the Mount Judea area specifically to discuss starting this CAFO there. Where did this idea even begin?
    He told me there had been numerous meetings between Cargill and the farmers leading up to the farmers’ calling a neighborhood meeting and presentation about the farm plan held at the Mount Judea fire station in January 2012. I was awaiting Martin’s response at deadline as to whether it was Cargill’s original idea to locate this CAFO where it is.
    In announcing their intended suit, Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society, called this CAFO the greatest threat to the Buffalo River since a dam proposal by the Corps of Engineers that was thwarted 50 years ago. “The porous limestone and karst that underlies all of the soil in the Mount Judea region provides a direct passageway for leakage from the waste holding ponds and for untreated recharge from the waste application fields to reach the groundwater and thus Big Creek and the Buffalo River,” he said. “The risk for contamination of the Buffalo River is unacceptably high.”
    The Farm Service Agency’s loan approval (backed by taxpayers) and guarantee were issued during the summer and fall of 2012. The suit also will contend that, because of a failure to notify local residents, the community did not find out about the farm’s construction until this year. Inadequate public notice is one of several egregious failures on the part of the government to ensure that the facility would not have detrimental affects on the Buffalo River watershed, the coalition said. So why weren’t public meetings held where they mattered most: Jasper and Harrison?
    “The letter we are sending today is a notice to the Department of Agriculture that its Farm Service Agency failed to undertake the consultation that is required to ensure that endangered species are not harmed as a result of the agency’s action,” said Hannah Chang, an attorney with Earthjustice.
    Jack Stewart of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance said the aim of the intended suit is to prevent the farm from going forward without thoroughly examining the potential irreversible damage to one of America’s most cherished places.
    Amen, Mr. Stewart.
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 10 May 2013 8:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    State grilled over permit for hog farm
    Crowd vocal, at times riled about fears for watershed
    By Ryan McGeeney

    JASPER - The director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said controversy over the agency’s approval of a permit for C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea is among the most emotional she’s dealt with since she was appointed to the position in 2007.

    Teresa Marks made the remark after about an hour and a half of public comment and debate Wednesday about the farm, a large-scale concentrated animal-feedingoperation 6 miles upstream from Big Creek’s confluence with the Buffalo National River. Many remarks were direct rebukes of Marks and her staff for issuing the permits for the farm’s construction near Big Creek.

    One commenter told Marks that she was lucky that she and her staff weren’t elected officials because they would likely be “out of a job this time next year.”

    “I knew, coming up here, that there were extremely strong feelings on bothsides of this issue,” Marks said. “What we wanted to do was take it out of the realm of emotion and put it more in the realm of science.”

    The public meeting, held at the Carroll Electric Cooperative Corp. building in Jasper, was the second of two gatherings Wednesday dedicated to the topic. Marks’ meeting and the one that preceded it - a panel discussion organized by the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance at Jasper’s Buffalo Theater - were raucous, standing-room-only events, with audience members at times heckling and shouting down opposing viewpoints.

    At least 120 people attended the alliance meeting, which began with a video lecture concerning the health and environmental impacts of confined animal-feeding operations in other parts of the country, especially North Carolina, and a brief explanation of karst geology. Karst, which underlies much of Newton County, consists of soluble rock, including limestone, and is distinguished by caves, sinkholes and other features that sometimes allow nutrients and pollutants to make their way into groundwater.

    Health impacts that have been tied to concentrated animal-feeding operations include asthma linked to breathing particles of animal waste and hemoglobin deficiencies linked to high nitrite levels in drinking water, according to information from the video.

    Panel members at the alliance meeting included Mike Dougherty, president of the Buffalo River Chamber of Commerce; James Lasseter, a Topeka, Kan., physician who said he owns property near Mount Judea; Andrea Radwell, an ecological sciences expert; and Emily Jones, senior program manager of the National Parks ConservationAssociation’s southeast regional office.

    “You’ve got a bunch of battle lines drawn here,” Jones told the audience. “This is going to be about economics, about community values, about convincing decision-makers that a sustainable community is what they’re going to represent.”

    Members of the alliance have voiced concern about the environment and the economy of the river area if hog waste gets into surface water within the Buffalo National River watershed.

    “The Buffalo River can be raging waters, or almost completely dry,” Radwell said. “The organisms there have to adapt, so we have some of the most unique fauna - organisms found nowhere else in the world.

    “That fraction of life is what everything else is dependent on. We can’t always see it, but we know that the rest of life on Earth is completely dependent on it. If the Buffalo River is damaged, there’ll be many organisms we never recognize, and it will be a huge loss of biodiversity in North America and the world.”

    Dougherty said he was angry when he first learned about the farm’s construction, although the anger wasn’t directed at the farm’s ownersand operators - Jason Henson or his cousins, Philip and Richard Campbell.

    “We see the [farm] as a victim, no less than anyone else out here,” Dougherty said.

    Those farmers “are small-business people, and they should be admired for trying to make a buck. Should they make a buck on Big Creek? I don’t think so. But they’re doing the best they can, and I respect them.”

    Dougherty said the state and federal permitting process is useless if it doesn’t take into account surrounding structures and the environment.

    “If you’re going to wrap a hog farm around a small village, there’s something deeply wrong with the regulation process,” Dougherty said.

    Public debate over C&H Hog Farms has grown since January when Buffalo National River Superintendent Kevin Cheri voiced anger that park officials weren’t consulted when the Farm Service Agency branch in Little Rock conducted an environmental assessment of the Mount Judea area.

    The agency found that the farm would have “no significant impact” on the area’s environment, but Cheri’s staff has argued that the assessment was incomplete and inaccurate. The farm, which iscontracted with Cargill Inc., has federal and state permits to house about 2,500 fullgrown sows and as many as 4,000 piglets.

    Most people at the alliance meeting seemed to be squarely against allowing production at C&H Hog Farms to continue and eager for an avenue to nullify the owners’ permits.

    The crowd at the Environmental Quality Department meeting, however, was more divided, with some people peppering the department’s representatives with pointed questions about the permitting processes and others making statements in support of the farm owners.

    Bob Shofner, a Newton County farmer, took his turn at the microphone and implored the crowd to be patient with the families running C&H Hog Farms.

    “One thing I wanted to talk to everybody about is that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. And this young farm family has definitely had a problem of everybody accusing them of doing something that has not even happened yet,” Shofner said. “I guarantee you this farm will be monitored better than any other farm in the state of Arkansas, any other farm in the [United States]. What I’m saying is let this family do what they need to do.”

    People in the crowd of atleast 150 repeatedly asked Marks why the department hadn’t made more of an effort to alert the public regarding the farm owners’ application for operation permits. Also, they asked why the department would allow such an operation within the Buffalo National River watershed.

    Marks said department staff members had acted within the regulatory constraints of Arkansas law. The department posted notification of the permit application on its website for 30 days beginning June 25, 2012, but no other publication of the notice was made or required.

    Marks also stressed that there is no regulatory basis for special treatment of applications because of their proximity to the Buffalo National River.

    “We issue general permits all over the state,” Marks said. “We don’t have the authority to treat [the Buffalo National River watershed] differently.”

    Marks said the Legislature has the power to enact laws to protect the river.

    “There are people out there that don’t want those extra protections in the Buffalo River watershed. They’re citizens too. So these are things that have to be decided by your duly elected representatives. We can’t, as a regulatory agency, make that type of prohibition,” Marks said.

    A lawsuit may be filed challenging the Farm Service Agency’s environmental assessment of the farm site. On May 6, Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental litigation organization, sent a notice of intent to sue to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Farm Service Agency’s branch offices in Washington, D.C., and Little Rock.

    The notice, which serves as a 60-day warning to the agencies, is the first step in a potential suit alleging that the agency did not collaborate with other agencies, including the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while drafting the environmental assessment of the farm’s building site. It also intends to allege that the agency failed to account for several endangered species in the area.

    If the environmental assessment is found to have been improperly executed, it could invalidate the farm’s operational permits.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association and the Ozark Society are all named as potential plaintiffs in the suit.

    Hannah Chang, a litigator with Earthjustice, said the organization was waiting on a response from the USDA before deciding whether to proceed.
  • 27 Apr 2013 3:02 PM | Anonymous

    4/27/13 Travel and Tourism Week May 4-12


    May 4-12 will be observed as Travel and Tourism Week in Jasper and Newton County by order of a proclamation signed by Jasper Mayor Shane Kilgore and Newton County Judge Warren Campbell.

    The proclamations were presented to the elected officials for signatures last week by Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Atkinson and Vice President/Tourism Director Donnie Crain.

    The Proclamation states:

    Travel matters to the nation’s economic prosperity and its image abroad.

    For business and other interests, travel to and within the United States generated $1.9 trillion in economic output in 2011, with $813 billion spent directly by travelers that spurred an additional $1.1 trillion in other industries.

    Travel is among the largest private-sector employers in the United States, supporting 14.4 million jobs in 2011. Of those jobs, 7.5 million were in the travel industry and 6.9 million in other industries.

    Travelers spending generated $124 billion in tax revenues for federal, state and local governments.

    In Newton County, travelers’ expenditures in 2012 amounted to $11.9 million. The industry employed 138 residents and generated over $1 million in state and local taxes.

    The officials agreed that travel is a catalyst that moves the Newton County economy forward and contributes greatly to the excellent quality of life enjoyed by the county’s residents.

  • 23 Apr 2013 9:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Locals plan forum, demonstration in opposition to hog farm near the Buffalo River
    by Dustin Bartholomew, Flyer Staff
    on April 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Locals concerned about a hog farm recently permitted to be built along a tributary of the Buffalo National River in Arkansas are planning a demonstration opposing the plans on Tuesday, April 23 at the University of Arkansas. A public forum on the issue is also planned for May 1 at Fayetteville Public Library.

    The controversy stems from a recent decision by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to approve a permit for C&H Farms to operate the 670-acre farm on the banks of Big Creek near Mount Judea. The farm will generate about 2 million gallons of waste annually, and the plan is to dispose of the liquid waste by spraying it onto 640 acres of surrounding grassland, causing concern that some of the waste will make its way into the Buffalo National River.

    The demonstration, organized by former Fayetteville mayor Dan Coody, will take place at noon on Tuesday at the corner of Maple Street and Garland Avenue on campus. The event is planned to coincide with a visit by the USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who will be speaking in the E. J. Ball Courtroom at the University of Arkansas Law School at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

    “Actions taken by the Farm Service Agency, a part of the USDA, have resulted in the C&H Hog Factory being built without a complete ADEQ application or environmental impact statement,” the Facebook event for the protest reads. “Secretary Vilsack needs to know there is something rotten in Newton County.”

    The forum is organized by a group calling themselves “Buffalo River Rescue: Mission Possible,” led by locals Kim and Janie Agee, Tammy Graham, Margaret Britain, and Ginny Masullo. The forum is set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1 in the Walker Room at the Fayetteville Public Library, and will be moderated by Kyle Kellams of KUAF. The event will include short speeches from Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Terry Spence of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, and a representative of the Ozark Society. Representatives from the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Arkansas Canoe Club will also attend, organizers said.

    Organizer Kim Agee said he intends for the forum to be educational. “It will hopefully be a good source of information for people to learn about these CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) farms, and how they want to contend with them,” he said.

    The Fayetteville City Council last week unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the permit of the C&H Hog Farm, and the Arkansas House of Representatives last week passed HB2252 to create stronger public notification requirements for future concentrated animal feeding operations.

    The ADEQ is also planning a public meeting on the issue on at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 at the Carrol Electric building in Jasper.

    An online petition opposing the farm now has over 9,700 signatures as well.

    Agee said he hopes the protest and the public forum will help to raise enough awareness and attention to ultimately halt the C&H Hog Farm operation.

    “There are still things folks can do to help,” he said. “They can call Cargill, they can write to their national elected representatives, they can shop up and peacefully demonstrate at the UA tomorrow, they can learn as much as possible about this CAFO business as they can, and make an intelligent decision about it. Those are some things they can do.”

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