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  • 16 Apr 2013 12:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Not the first conflict
    By Mike Masterson

    During the mid-1980s, a farmer with one or more big financial backers convinced the then-Department of Pollution Control and Ecology (now Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality) to approve a permit that would establish a landfill near the little Ozarks community of Pindall about 20 miles (as the hog walks) from Mount Judea.

    Pindall is miles farther from the Buffalo than is Mount Judea.

    Fortunately and wisely, that state agency back then finally did the right thing in the face of public outcry and national news attention, and repealed its permit months later. Sides had been quickly drawn in that disagreement. A local and statewide battle of reason and will ensued over possible contamination of the national river’s watershed and their own community’s water supply.

    Angry Pindall residents began raising money in any way possible, from donations to pie suppers, to fund professional groundwater tracing near the property in question.

    These good folks blessed with common sense and the knowledge never to place one’s outhouse above their well had the odd idea that such testing was imperative to disclose any potential effects of dumping massive amounts of waste in an environment underlain by cracked limestone formations known as karst.

    Thomas Aley, the nationally respected director and president of the Ozarks Underground Laboratory of Protem, Mo., was retained to perform those tests. And sure enough, Aley discovered the dye he’d applied to the proposed dump site flowed rapidly through waters beneath the ground to show up in local drinking water only days later. The state decided to do its own testing, which confirmed what Aley had found-all after the permit was granted, of course.

    After the tests at Pindall were complete, a national NBC camera crew had departed and an administrative law judge had found for the Pindall residents, the state announced it was repealing its permit to dump waste near Pindall.

    I find it unconscionable that those in Pindall would be forced into holding pie suppers to sponsor work the state’s environmental guardians should have completed before ever approving such a terrible idea. Yet that’s what happened.

    It also occurred in 1996 when the same agency wrongheadedly issued a permit to create a landfill on Hobbs Mountain above the White River near Durham, which feeds the region’s water supply at Beaver Lake. Hobbs Mountain is also a karst-riddled region. That repeal took a year and many pie suppers before common sense and the people prevailed and the permit was withdrawn.

    Those conflicts demonstrated the power of the people when something precious that belongs to them (like drinking water and their national river that also is an enormous economic boon to the region) becomes potentially threatened.

    I see parallels in what is happening today with the concentrated animal feeding operation along Big Creek about 30,000 feet from the Buffalo. So does Thomas Aley, who told me the other day that he believes hydrology testing is absolutely necessary when proposing to dump potentially contaminating waste anywhere across the karst-riddled Ozarks, “especially in the watershed of the nationally significant Buffalo National River.”

    It becomes a matter of how the surface and subsurface waters flow and interact, he explained, adding, “What we learned at Pindall was that distance from the Buffalo River doesn’t necessarily ensure protection. The initial assumption was: ‘Oh, this [permitted waste dump] couldn’t possibly affect the Buffalo.” Sound familiar, valued readers?

    “What we showed was the level of care that must be taken before waste-disposal practices are put into effect within miles of the Buffalo National River,” he said.

    I’d like to examine the state’s hydrology studies that show how the groundwater and underground springs predictably flow through the formations beneath the soil and rocks of C&H Hog Farms. Surely,in light of what happened in the watershed at Pindall, our state learned its lesson and performed its due diligence here.

    Surely, the paid public defenders of our environmental quality in this environmentally sensitive region have insisted that the farmers involved (and their financial backer, Cargill Inc.) conduct such hydrology tests at their own expense.

    If not, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the results and this permit should E. coli, phosphorus and worse begin showing up in water testing done after the fact.

    If not these state gatekeepers, who allow enormous amounts of waste to be deposited in environmentally sensitive areas, then who would insist upon such seemingly logical and obvious precautions?

    If not them, then who should bear the expense of such crucial tests? Should it once more come down to the good people who are potentially affected and their fundraising pie suppers and yard sales?

    Those interested in what has become a national issue can attend a public, moderated discussion of the state’s decision to permit C&H Hog Farms beginning at 6 p.m. on May 1 in Fayetteville’s public library.

    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.


  • 12 Apr 2013 4:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Stuff I Don't Understand, 4/9/13
    Mentally Hogtied, Mike Masterson

    Another thing I don't understand is how a map contained in permitting records at the state's Department of Environmental Quality in connection with C&H Hog farms Inc. in Mount Judea show a field proposed for spraying hog waste comes as close as 300 feet from what appears to the local school's walking track and athletic field (as a hog walks and swims).

    But how could the state agency responsible for protecting our environment and health even consider something like that when these maps are part of their own files? It's even more shocking to me that the director of this agency, Teresa Marks, acknowledged that she didn't know about the notice of intent for this farm until after it was issued.

    The whole plan to place an industrial contained animal feeding operation (CAFO) with as many as 6,500 hogs along Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo National River some five miles distant, is one big ol' environmental quagmire just waiting to happen.

    I also can't understand how Cargill Inc. would even consider backing such a venture in the most environmentally sensitive region of Arkansas. I suspect many Arkansans whose voices have yet to be heard feel likewise.

    And since our state has granted a permit for this controversial CAFO that envelops the community of Mount Judea and sits along a primary tributary of the Buffalo, doesn't the agency also have a vested interest politically in making sure its decision doesn't look bad later?

    I also believe that Cargill and every governmental agency involved with this really bad plan need to rethink what they are about to do here. I know there are now plenty of eyes and voices waiting to remind them of this decision in times to come.

    Meanwhile, the state's Pollution Control ad Ecology Commission (parent to the Department of Environmental Quality) will meet at the department's commission room in North Little Rock on April 25 at 9 a.m.

    And the Department of Environmental Quality is scheduled to hold a public meeting in Jasper at 6 p.m. on May 8 at the local electric co-op office. But what else can it say after granting the permit? "Hey, it's all legal. Our hands are tied. Nothing to see (or smell) Move along, folks."

    This CAFO might be legal. But why is potential mega-polluter with the potential to negatively affect the live of so many, as well as the environmental quality and tourism in our state, even considered legal in this hallowed place?
  • 11 Apr 2013 12:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Fayetteville Council Opposes Hog Farm Near Buffalo River

    By: KOLR10 News with help from KFSM, Fort Smith, Arkansas
    Updated: April 11, 2013




    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The city council in Fayetteville, Arkansas is weighing in about a large commercial hog farm close to the Buffalo National River.

    Although the hog operation is two counties away from Fayetteville, Council member say they are worried about the impact to tourism in the region.

    The 6,500 hog operation is near a tributary of the Buffalo in Newton County.

    CBS affiliate KFSM in Fort Smith reports the Fayetteville council will take up a resolution next Tuesday. The resolution, drawn up by the city attorney, states hog droppings have the ability to pollute the river and keep people from canoeing or hiking along the river locally.

    KFSM reports the U.S. Farm Services Agency found the hog farm would have no significant impact on the local environment and the river, a claim the City Council's proposed resolution calls "hard to imagine".

    Hog Farm Polluting Buffalo River, Resolution Claims
    Posted on: 8:27 pm, April 10, 2013, by Shain Bergan, updated on: 08:31pm, April 10, 2013l

    A hog farm near a Buffalo National River tributary in Newton County has some members of the Fayetteville City Council fighting against the farm’s operation.
    The Fayetteville City Council agreed this week to address a resolution to oppose a 6,500 hog factory farm near Harrison. Although the farm is a few counties away, the proposed resolution claims the factory could poison Buffalo River waters and hurt local tourism revenue.
    The resolution, drafted by Fayetteville city attorney Kit Williams, states hog droppings have the ability to pollute the river and keep people from canoeing or hiking along the river locally.
    “Hog excrement…smells very much worse than chicken or cow manure,” the resolution states. The state of Arkansas “would never allow a city of 6,500 people to just use lagoons that can easily overflow after a storm and flow into the nearby creek to store and ‘treat’ human waste.”
    The U.S. Farm Services Agency found the hog farm would have no significant impact on the local environment and the river, a claim the City Council’s proposed resolution calls “hard to imagine”.
    The resolution was co-sponsored by Alderman Sarah Marsh and Mayor Lioneld Jordan. The City Council is scheduled to address the resolution Tuesday.
  • 09 Apr 2013 9:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Legislation targets farms in watersheds

    By Ryan McGeeney
    This article was published today at 4:33 a.m.

    CommentsaAFont SizeShare
    A bipartisan coalition of Arkansas legislators is trying to curb future permits for large scale, concentrated farming within sensitive watersheds throughout the state.

    House Bill 2252, if passed into law, would impose a two-year moratorium on the issuance of concentrated animal feeding operation general permits within the watersheds of the state’s Extraordinary Resource Waters, as defined by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission. The permits, which follow National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System guidelines, are issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

    HB2252 began as a “shell bill” filed by state Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, March 11, the last day to file legislation for the 2013 session. A shell bill is a legislative bill that includes no provisions, but may be amended before being submitted to committee.

    Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, last week added temporary language to HB2252 to address permitting within Extraordinary Resource Waters.

    “The intention of the amendment is to establish a moratorium on any new [concentrated animal feeding operations] in the Buffalo watershed, with a particular emphasis on hog farms,” Sabin said.

    Sabin said the language of the bill is a direct reaction to C&H Hog Farms, a concentrated animal feeding operation now being constructed near Mount Judea in Newton County. The farm, which is permitted to house as many as 6,500 hogs, was the first operation to be granted a confined animal feeding operation general permit by the Department of Environmental Quality in August 2012.

    Much of the public outcry over the 670-acre farm, which abuts Big Creek, a major tributary to the Buffalo National River, stemmed from the claim that public notice regarding the potential farm was inadequate. Under state regulations, the department’s only requirement regarding permit application notification is to post the applications on the department website.

    At the March meeting of the department’s Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, commission chairman Stan Jorgensen ordered department director Teresa Marks to present notification alternatives to the commission during its April meeting.

    “I think everyone in this situation admits the public notice procedures were inadequate,” Sabin said.

    Sabin said the bill would not affect the operation of C&H Hog Farms. An attempt to retroactively legislate against alegally-permitted farm would amount to a bill of attainder, which is prohibited under Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution.

    The bill is scheduled to be introduced today to the Arkansas House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor by Rep. Kelley Linck, R-Yellville.

    “This hog farm excited people in my industry - it scared them, frankly,” said Linck, who is also executive director of Ozark Mountain Region Inc., an advertising agency based in Flippin. Linck said that his constituents voiced concerns over the potential damage to business if large amounts of manure entered the Buffalo National River. “They care about the waterway itself, but the damage to tourism based on the waterway would be huge.”

    Sabin and Kelley each said that if the bill passes, they would refer the matter of issuing general permits for concentrated animal feeding operations to an interim study committee during the moratorium.

    “We want to say, ‘no, we’re not going to do that until we look at it.’ Let’s look at how the process works. I think we missed some things this goround,” Linck said.

    Public outcry from both environmental organizations and tourism-based businesses began to mount after Buffalo National River Superintendent Kevin Cheri complained to both the Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Farm Service Agency that not only had he and others been unaware of the permit application, his staff believed that an environmental assessment showing the farm would likely have no significant impact on the river was “deeply flawed.”

    Monday, the National Parks Conservation Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization with about20 regional offices around the country, issued a news release calling for the revocation of C&H Hog Farms’ general permit.

    Sabin said his intention was that the finalized bill would specifically address swine operations without affecting current regulations regarding chicken farm operations in Arkansas.

    “We specifically avoided including those so as to not impede getting this moratorium passed,” Sabin said. “The consensus seems to be that the moratorium has a good chance of passing because it’s very narrowly defined, and it’s a bipartisan effort.”

    Arkansas, Pages 12 on 04/09/2013
  • 08 Apr 2013 7:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    PRESS RELEASE

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    April 8, 2013

    National Parks Conservation Association Calls Permitting Process Flawed for Hog Farm onBuffalo National River Tributary
    National Parks Group Urges U.S. Department of Agriculture and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to Pull Permit

    Mt. Judea, Ark. - On March 29th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) responded to a written request from the National Park Service (NPS) seeking clarity around a permit that was issued earlier this year for a hog farm along Big Creek – a tributary that empties intoBuffalo National River just 5 miles downstream. An analysis of the process by which C & H Hog Farms, Inc. obtained a loan guarantee suggests that the permit was issued without proper consultation of the Park Service – a requirement of the Farm Services Agency for projects located below or above a national river.

    “Based upon the Farm Services Agency’s own guidelines, the entire permitting process for the hog farm was flawed and the decision should be thrown out,” said National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Senior Program Manager Emily Jones. “This hog farm could do real damage to the resources at Buffalo National River. If a proper review was completed, the environmental assessment would have shown the impacts.”

    The hog farm would hold as many as 6,500 animals and generate roughly 2 million gallons of waste annually, which could impact the Buffalo River downstream. The operation could harm several endangered or threatened species in the region, including the gray bat and the endangered snuffbox mussel. Under Endangered Species Act regulations, federal agencies must ensure their actions don’t jeopardize the continued existence of listed species. In addition to failing to consult with the Park Service on impacts to the river, the Farm Services Agency did not submit a determination of effects on endangered species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by law.

    The Buffalo National River is America’s first national river. In 2011, over 1 million visitors to the river spent over $38 million in surrounding communities, creating jobs, attending festivals, and supporting local businesses. Canoe and kayak enthusiasts, equestrians, hikers, fisherman, and birders enjoy the 132 mile free flowing river. Elk, deer and turkey, along with more than 300 species of fish, freshwater mussels, insects, and aquatic plants depend on the Buffalo, America’s first National River. A hog farm could jeopardize this economic benefit for the State of Arkansasand impact local communities.

    “On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association’s over 800,000 members and supporters, we call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to work cooperatively to pull this permit,” said Jones. “Buffalo NationalRiver is a national treasure, and the necessary precautions must be followed to ensure it is protected for future generations.”

    Contact: Perry Wheeler, NPCA Senior Media Relations Coordinator, P: 301-675-8766
  • 07 Apr 2013 8:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    CAFOs for dummies


    Mike Masterson


    A war between fact and opinion is waging between the National Park Service and the U.S. Farm Services Agency over the environmental assessment submitted with the loan for that concentrated animal feeding operation on a commercial hog farm in the Buffalo National River watershed near Mount Judea.
    Amid the controversy, this CAFO-dummy went searching for what that rural community in Newton County might expect.
    But surely the scenario I discovered can’t become as bad in this watershed, especially since the Department of Environmental Quality, our state’s guardians of the precious Buffalo River, granted C&H Farms Inc. a let-’er-rip permit to operate so close to this town of about 500 souls.
    It seemed wise to examine Iowa’s experiences since that state raises more hogs on these massive industrial farms than any other.
    An extensively footnoted assessment of health, local economies and the environment related to CAFOs was completed several years back by the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University in Iowa.
    While Iowa in 2002 still produced roughly the same amount of pork as a century earlier, the number of the state’s smaller hog farmers had plummeted from 59,134 farms in 1978 to 10,205 by 2002. That’s because most of the 17 million Iowa hogs were increasingly being raised in the CAFOs, where thousands of hogs are contained indoors before being shipped to the meat-packing plant.
    Corporations that derive economic benefit from CAFOs hail this as the future of agriculture. However, the CAFOs also are causing measurable harm. The assessment reported many problems, including significant amounts of toxic animal waste released into water and air without environmental controls in place, which in turn, appears to be a factor in increased illness rates near CAFO facilities; increased bacterial drug resistance (risking public health) due to routine administration of antibiotics to confined hogs; marked decreases in land values and quality of life near CAFOs; and the decline of small-scale farming and the local economy.
    Hog waste contains viruses, parasites and bacteria that can contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans. This waste is often contained in holding cesspools called lagoons, from which it is applied to surrounding land or sprayed into the air on application fields. The air around CAFOs can contain unhealthy concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, inhalable particulates and endotoxins.
    Asignificant percentage of employees working in CAFOs reported serious respiratory problems, some attributable to inhaled microbes, as well as headaches and stomach problems. In one study noted in the report, Iowans living in a 2-mile radius of a 4,000-hog facility reported more respiratory and other symptoms than a control group not living near a CAFO. Hydrogen sulfide gas produced by hog waste is known as a potent neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system. Those exposed to concentrations of even 0.1 to 1 part per million can display symptoms such as abnormal balance and delays in word recall.
    The health threats from a hog factory are due to tremendous amounts of manure generated continually in one place and dropped into the anaerobic “pits” that, lacking oxygen, putrefy the matter quickly. One finding said that 10,000 hogs can generate as much daily waste as 25,000 to 50,000 humans. That means 6,500 hogs would equal a city at least the size of nearby Harrison.
    According to the institute, University of Iowa scientists in 2006 found that children at schools near CAFOs may be at higher risk for asthma. Students at a school under study a half-mile from a CAFO showed a prevalence of diagnosed asthma in 19.7 percent of cases, while only 7.3 percent from a control school more than 10 miles from the CAFO exhibited asthma. A topographical map shows Mount Judea’s school to be no more than 0.8 of a mile from C&H Farms’ fields as the crow flies.
    CAFOs can disrupt quality of life for neighboring residents, the institute noted. “The rural lifestyle, which has always prized outdoor activities and visits from friends and family, is threatened when homeowners need to protect themselves from the air and manure coming from the CAFO. Social capital declines, and deep-seated rifts often arise between CAFOs and their neighbors.”
    “Prior to their construction,” the report continues, “CAFOs are often promoted locally through claims that they will bring economic vitality to the area. However, the research conducted after operations begin indicates otherwise. The evidence shows a loss of jobs, depressed property values, loss of income for local businesses, and a huge drain on county resources resulting from CAFOs.”
    Since our state’s purported defender of our environment chose to approve this CAFO, please assure me that things here won’t come to resemble Iowa’s experiences … (crickets chirping) … still waiting.
     
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.

  • 06 Apr 2013 3:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Meanwhile, back at the farm


    Mike Masterson


    In the public dispute over protecting and preserving the Buffalo National River watershed, the corporation behind the controversial industrial hog farm approved near Mount Judea in Newton County has been virtually anonymous.
    According to the environmental assessment report filed with the USDA’s Farm Services Agency, the 600-plusacre C&H Hog Farms “will produce hogs for Cargill [Inc.] in up-to-date structures in Newton County.” So now we all know the rest of that story.
    The statement adds: “This guaranteed loan [from we the taxpayers] will also benefit the Farm Credit Service of Western Arkansas. FSA’s involvement will negate some of Farm Credit’s risk associated with this loan.”
    Topographical maps show the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) with some 6,500 hogs is located near Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo River about 5 miles downstream. The farm’s boundaries also run 0.8 of a mile from the Mount Judea school as the crow flies.
    C&H Farms’ owners and primary beneficiaries are publicly listed as Richard, Mary, Phillip and Julie Campbell, along with Jason and Tara Henson (hence Campbell and Henson Farms). Richard Campbell also is listed as a member of the Newton County Quorum Court whose district includes Mount Judea and the expanse of the farm and its fields.
    Documents name Lonnie D. Ewing and Martha Gafford as the FSA officials who prepared and approved the agency’s findings. Ewing told me he helped produce the disputed environmental assessment for the loan and its finding of having “no significant impact” to the environment.
    He also acknowledged being married to the former Teresa Campbell of Newton County whom, he added, is “only distantly related” to the Campbell family involved in the farm. He told me he wasn’t certain of their precise familial connections.
    Ewing explained he hadn’t seen or associated with members of the Campbell extended family in years before the farm’s loan papers were submitted for his review and approval. Therefore, he perceived having not even a potential conflict of interest in personally managing the environmental assessment.
    Newton County Judge Warren Campbell is not listed as having an interest in the farm.
    I asked widely respected Ed Fite of Oklahoma, the administrator of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission and a former national leader in state and local river conservation programs, his opinion of Cargill’s decision to back the farm in such an environmentally sensitive location.
    “The Cargill folks are most likely building the new farm adhering to all local, state and federal regulations,” he said. “Yet, in the court of public opinion, they’re making a really poor choice. There will be dire ramifications for years to come.
    “I just can’t fathom why a company would risk such [a venture]. The Buffalo River is a national natural resources treasure likened to the Grand Canyon. Cargill has made a bad decision,” he added.
    Seems to me there are plenty of potential locations across Arkansas for an industrial hog farm other than in the Buffalo River watershed.
    Meanwhile, Don Nelms, a politically active businessman living in Newton County who has served on two governors’ staffs (including Mike Beebe’s), said Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks told him in a telephone conversation last month that “she wasn’t aware the permit for the C&H CAFO had even been issued until after the fact.”
    “I asked Ms. Marks three different times if she knew about this permit for the farm before it was issued, and she answered each time that she did not,” said Nelms. “I had called her because I knew her personally from my position on the governor’s staff and felt like I could speak freely with her. I asked why she hadn’t let me know about this before it was complete.”
    Nelms added: “I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe some agency head knew nothing about this kind of industrial farm. Well, in my opinion, she should have known about it and realized there were enough reasons not to do it. She also told me she had no power to stop the permit. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but knowing previous agency heads, I can’t believe that’s true.”
    Marks said she had indeed spoken with Nelms. And although she knew about the new general permit for CAFOs issued statewide at the time, the C&H Farms request for a specific permit was a different story.
    “I personally was not aware of the [farm’s] notice of intent until after it was filed with the Water Division in our office,” she said. “We receive hundreds of applications each year to proceed under the terms of one or another general permit in the department and the individual notices are normally handled at the division level.”
    Marks explained that there was no legal reason for her agency to deny the C&H request since the proposed farm met the requirements and there’s no state law banning CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed.
    I’m still wondering why such a law wasn’t passed years ago, and how our state could have even considered allowing this industrial farm to be permitted in that sacred place many call God’s Country.
    All further examples of our gatekeeping government at the highest bureaucratic levels inadequately protecting and preserving the precious natural treasures of Arkansas. Whooo pig!
     
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 26 Mar 2013 10:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    http://www.nwaonline.com/news/2013/mar/26/buffalo-river-chief-still-hopes-stymie-sw-20130326/

    Buffalo River chief still hopes to stymie swine
    Official: Pollution-risk report of farm flawed, permit invalid
    By Ryan McGeeney


    The chief administrator of the Buffalo National River said Monday that he is still hoping to pursue administrative remedies short of requesting an injunction in an attempt to halt the operation of a new hog farm in Newton County.

    Kevin Cheri, superintendent of the Buffalo National River, said he plans to meet with Linda Newkirk, director of the Arkansas Farm Services Agency, to discuss the environmental assessment the agency conducted for the site of C&H Farms, a 6,500-animal hog farm to be located along the banks of Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo National River.

    Friday, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, the governing body of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality tasked with creating the state’s environmental regulations, heard about two hours of public comment regarding the Environmental Quality Department’s decision to grant a concentrated animal-feeding operation general permit to the farm. The permit is the first to be issued in the state under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems guidelines created by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

    While commission chairman Stan Jorgensen recognized that the majority of the comments concerned potential pollution from the farm and accusations that little was done to inform the public of the pending permit, he said both the applicant and Environmental Quality Department had followed all regulations during the permit process.

    Cheri, along with representatives of several environmental organizations, have said the environmental assessment of the farm’s potential effect on the air and waterways in the area was so deficient that the permit itself is invalid.

    In a letter dated Feb. 27, 2013, Cheri noted 45 discrepancies in the Farm Service Agency’s assessment, a document that Cheri called “exceptionally flawed” Monday.

    Newkirk said Monday that her office plans to issue a full response to Cheri’s concerns over the environmental assessment later this week but declined to comment further.

    Duane Woltjen, Arkansas director for the Ozark Society, said the group plans to discuss the commission’s decision during its monthly meeting in mid-April, but that legal action is not currently being considered.

    “We’re not looking to take them to court, because the administrative process hasn’t been exhausted by any means,” Woltjen said.

    Lawsuits filed by private citizens with regard to potential environmental harm have recent precedent in Arkansas. Members of the Hempstead County Hunting Club, along with Arkansas chapters of the Sierra Club and Audubon Society, sued to halt the construction of the John W. Turk Jr. coal-fired electric plant near Fulton in 2009,leading to a series of successive court decisions upholding the Arkansas Court of Appeals’ decision to overturn the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission’s ruling in support of the permit. The parties claimed standing as individuals who could be damaged by pollution from the plant, which is owned by the Southwestern Electric Power Company.

    The plaintiffs all reached settlements with SWEPCO in 2011. Although monetary details of SWEPCO’s settlement with the hunting club weren’t disclosed, SWEPCO offered to provide the club funding to help with its conservation efforts, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives. SWEPCO also agreed to pay the Sierra Club and Audubon Society $12 million, including $2 million for legal fees.




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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 (buffaloriveralliance.org) 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 mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.

Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization

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