Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

MIKE MASTERSON: Good for Guv

31 Mar 2019 8:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

OPINION

MIKE MASTERSON: Good for GuvAgainst SB550


I was pleased, as were many across Arkansas, to see our governor step forward the other day to effectively sidetrack that terrible bill (SB550) by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, which would have handed regulatory authority over hog factories by the EPA-qualified Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.


This piece of legislation I've deemed the "Stubblefield Stinker," although approved by the Senate (I've previously listed those voting for it), was firmly backed by a push from the Arkansas Farm Bureau, which has continued to endorse and embrace deeply controversial C&H Hog Farms, wrongly permitted in our precious Buffalo National River watershed in 2012.


Although that shocking permit was indeed issued by the Department of Environmental Quality (including its former official John Bailey, now with Farm Bureau) without stringent requirements for safety and water testing in a region permeated by fractured karst subsurface, the agency finally did deny a separate permit application for the factory last year.


In other words, it applied the criteria that should have been demanded back of this grossly misplaced facility back in 2012. Wish I could say "better late than never." But our Buffalo and its tributary Big Creek that flows along and through the C&H spray fields have been classified as impaired from pathogens and/or low dissolved oxygen. And the phosphorus and nitrogen from waste trapped in the subsurface crevasses and caves could continue to flow downhill for decades.


Yet C&H continues to operate, regularly spraying many thousands of gallons of raw hog waste across 600 acres as lawyers file appeals of the agency's denial. The last thing our state needs is to yank authority away from a department that is qualified to issue permits based on EPA criteria and hand it to a commission that is anything but prepared for such responsibility, even though the Department of Environmental Quality certainly failed to do its job back in 2012. I've got to hope it learned a harsh lesson from that truly bad decision.

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