Buffalo River 


  • 16 Sep 2018 9:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MIKE MASTERSON: More at risk

    Toxins in our river

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: September 16, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

    Carol Bitting has long been a staunch champion for our Buffalo National River, identified last year by readers of USA Today as the state's greatest attraction.

    She is one of many who have dedicated themselves to protecting the country's first national river that now is endangered and disease-impaired. Her concerns echo tens of thousands of others across our state.

    Bitting, along with equally devoted geoscientist and emeritus professor John Van Brahana, recently forwarded two cautionary August news releases from our state Department of Health that should have all of us upset.

    She wrote: "If you haven't seen these letters you will find them of interest and the readers should know that algae waters should be avoided for contact and consuming. I have known several people that have had reactions to being in contact with the waters in the Buffalo this summer. Three people on one trip had reactions and of those, all had skin rashes and fever and two developed gastrointestinal issues."

    Contamination from Recreational Water Illness (RWI) has become a deadly serious matter within this sacred river, exactly as hydrologists and geoscientists (as opposed to any alleged "raving environmentalists") have been warning for five years. These illnesses are caused when bacteria in contaminated water find a home inside people and other animals.

    Health Department officials urged anyone in the Buffalo or its tributary Big Creek not to swallow water or swim in algae blooms (triggered by animal fertilizer runoff). They also warned against entering water with bad smells, discoloration, foam, scum or algae mats (good luck avoiding those on our lower Buffalo today) or signs of dead fish or marine life.

    "Water quality can change quickly," the officials wrote. "In general, there is a higher risk of getting sick after a rainfall event or in cloudy water," warning that not all contaminants can be see by the naked eye.

    "Not all algae are harmful," they continued, "but some algae produce toxins that can make people and animals sick. It is not possible to tell if algae are producing toxins just by looking at the water. The size of the bloom is not related to the amount of toxins that could be present. Children and pets are at the greatest risk from swimming or drinking water when algae are present."

    They also emphasized people or animals should never consume algae-infested water, even if it's been filtered, as personal filter equipment and treatment options don't eliminate the risks. It's also a bad idea to cook using this water. Symptoms include throwing up and diarrhea. Anyone who believes they have an RWI should contact the Department of Health Communicable Disease Nurses at (501) 537-8969.

    As for the well-being of dogs, they earned their very own press release addressed to veterinarians. And theirs was focused squarely on the national river.

    "Harmful algal blooms ... from the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) may be intermittently present in parts of the Buffalo River National Park, specifically the lower river region," it says. These algae can produce toxins that affect people and animals that swim in and drink from these waters. There are several sections of the river where people recreate with their dogs.

    Though the Health Department has received only a few reports of human illnesses possibly associated with the blooms, officials also felt it wise to inform veterinarians of the current situation and provide additional resources should they encounter symptoms, especially in dogs.

    Indications of cyanobacterial toxin poisoning depend on the type of toxin (hepatotoxin, neurotoxin, or dermatoxin), its concentration, the amount consumed, the size of the animal and the exposure route, according to the Health Department. Left untreated, cyanobacterial toxin poisoning can be fatal in animals. Prompt veterinary care is critical for pets showing hepatic or neurologic symptoms, and there are no antidotes to these toxins.

    Ingesting large amounts of such toxins can result in serious illness and the need for emergency care. Common signs of hepatotoxin poisoning include throwing up, diarrhea, anorexia, jaundice, abdominal tenderness, and dark urine, and death from liver failure can occur within days.

    Neurotoxins, the release said, cause excessive drooling, disorientation, seizures, and respiratory failure, and can lead to death within minutes to hours after exposure from respiratory paralysis. Cyanobacteria may also produce dermatoxins which result in rash, hives, or an allergic reaction.

    These symptoms sure sound identical to health problems suffered by the Buffalo River enthusiasts Bitting mentioned at the top of this column.

    But hey, don't worry, be happy, fellow Arkansans. After all, our politically appointed Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee and the tax-funded Big Creek Research and Extension Team are diligently at work (watching this unfold) to ensure purity on our behalf.

    Meanwhile, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) doesn't care to pin down the source of this ever-deepening threat to the health of our Buffalo because, well, then they'd have to deal with it.

    Quite a dangerous and wholly unnecessary shameful mess we've allowed to be foisted upon Arkansans and our precious jewel of a river, don't you think?


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

  • 15 Sep 2018 11:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Protecting Buffalo River won’t harm small farms

    Small farms and the Buffalo River have coexisted for hundreds of years without excessive pollution of the first national river in America. The concentrated animal feeding operation issue is not “river vs. farmers” regardless of what politicians say.

    Truthfully, these small farms exist today because of efforts in the 1960s to save the Buffalo River and stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from flooding the entire river valley to build a dam. Google the history. It’s a shining moment for Arkansans and Friends of the Buffalo.

    The Buffalo National River is now impaired. What changed? A feeding operation lately located in the watershed. The timeline of that swine factory and the pollutants in the Buffalo National River track simultaneously. Arkansas is the steward of this national treasure. The only option for Arkansans is to do whatever it takes to protect these waters. The true small farmers on the Buffalo River will continue to co-exist from mutually beneficial environmental practices. The tourists will respect any access limitations that may be necessary for future usage protections. Good neighbor policies, as advocated by the Farm Bureau, means doing what’s right for everybody, not just for a single misplaced corporate feeding operation.

    Decisions in the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality should be driven by impartial factual evidence and science produced by professionals in their respective fields for the benefit of all Arkansans, not by political appointments for selected corporate industries. My objections to C&H Farms remain the same: (1) Lack of a written emergency environmental disaster plan; (2) negative health impact on residents and tourists; (3) economic disaster to tourism businesses; (4) Department of Environmental Quality policy/procedure enforcement failure; and (5) inhumane treatment of large animals.

    Close the combined animal feeding operation.



  • 14 Sep 2018 10:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansans should take action for the Buffalo

    Bill Underwood’s Sept. 5 letter to the editor focused meaningfully on the disastrous polluting hog farming near our national treasure, the Buffalo River. How can we, the concerned, attempt to make a difference?

    Two thoughts: We Arkansas residents could write the Department of Environmental Quality. Or write Cargill directly. Cargill is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn.

    I, a senior senior, do not have a computer so I cannot generate specific addresses. But hopefully the readers get the idea — do something. Decades ago, an individual, Dr. Compton, stopped the building of a dam on the Buffalo. What can WE do?



  • 14 Sep 2018 10:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Not part of problem

    Protecting the water, air and wild places that we all need is going to require well-informed, scientifically sound discussion. Comparing two million gallons of factory-produced hog manure to wild deer poop is not well-informed or scientifically sound.

    The hog manure is the residue left over from feeding thousands of tons of imported nutrients. Nutrients trucked into the Ozarks as concentrated swine feed, eaten by the hogs and then spread onto fields as manure. All the polluting nutrients in the hog manure are new to the ecosystem, brought in from somewhere else. All the deer poop, squirrel poop, etc., is just the result of wildlife eating the acorns, roots and grass that are already present in the Ozark ecosystem.

    The pollution of the Buffalo River is the result of nutrients imported from outside the Ozarks. Wild animals are not importing anything. Wildlife is not part of the pollution problem.



  • 11 Sep 2018 11:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Must protect the river

    I am a supporter and admirer of the Buffalo River. I don't want to see our beautiful river that has been tirelessly protected to be polluted by anyone. I commend the writer John Kimbrow referred to and think his criticism of the subject choice to be unwarranted.

    I for one believe that the effort to protect our river must be ongoing and never-ending. There will always be those, in this state and Washington, D.C., who will want to exploit this gift God has given us to cherish and protect. The hog farm is a present problem. Until that problem is addressed and eliminated, the information and protection must continue.

    The gift of this river must not be underappreciated. When we stop fighting we will lose our precious river. I don't want future generations reading about the Buffalo in Arkansas history books. I want them to experience and enjoy this gift, as I have.



  • 08 Sep 2018 8:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Act now to seek help for creek, Buffalo River

    In July 2018, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality released a proposed list of impaired water bodies in Arkansas. Although the list is comprehensive and they used good science to develop it, the categorization of some identified impaired waters is faulty.

    Two segments of Big Creek and two segments of Buffalo River are listed as Category 4b. This is wrong and needs to be corrected. Designation as 4b and not 5 on the Draft 2018 Impaired Waterbodies list allows for alternative, voluntary water management plans (like the Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan) to be used as state-led management approaches. The department identifies the the Buffalo River management plan as the "alternative plan in place" to justify the inclusion of the impaired segments in Category 4b. This approach fails to protect Big Creek because it lacks consideration of point-source and permitted facilities like the C&H Hog Farm.

    C&H is expressly excluded from regulation in Category 4b. The waste from thousands of hogs at C&H is spread on farm lands adjacent to Big Creek, leading to nutrient loading, including phosphorous, which is contributing to pollution and algae build-up in Big Creek. Big Creek is a tributary of Buffalo River.

    In the Buffalo River watershed, four problem areas were identified as impaired, including three for bacteria and one for dissolved oxygen. Of the assessment areas with bacterial problems, two exceeded federal limits for E coli. Inclusion as Category 4b means the state is not required to develop "total maximum daily loads." Simply put, that is the maximum amount of a specific pollutant allowed to enter a water body.

    Development of total maximum daily loads helps target how much of a reduction is needed to declare the water fit for designated uses like recreation. That seems like an important piece of information, particularly for the Buffalo, which draws people from all over the country for swimming, fishing and paddling.

    The Buffalo River Water Management Plan is not required by Arkansas regulations to implement water quality standards within a reasonable period of time. Without more proactive, stringent and enforceable measures, the water quality of Big Creek and Buffalo River will continue to deteriorate.

    The management plan cannot address point-source contamination (like C&H). It is voluntary and has no investigative or enforcement authority. It prioritizes six specific tributaries, which do not include Big Creek or the impaired segments of Buffalo River.

    It is imperative for Arkansans to make our voices heard. Tell the Department of Environmental Quality to include Big Creek and the impaired sections of Buffalo River in Category 5. Please take a few minutes and send your comments today, because the comment period ends Sept. 10. Don't miss this opportunity to help protect our precious natural resources, including the nation's first national river. Written comments should be sent to the Water Quality Planning Branch, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Water Quality by email at WaterbodyComments@adeq.state.ar.us.

    Tracie Pape

    Bull Shoals

    Commentary on 09/08/2018

  • 08 Sep 2018 8:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Defend Buffalo River

    I am grateful for the articles, editorials, and letters this newspaper has published recently on the need for action to defend and preserve our precious Buffalo River.

    The Department of Environmental Quality says there will be a period for public comment, but has not yet announced the date. I wish to suggest one quick and easy step we can take now. Start practicing by sending a brief letter to Caleb Osborne, Associate Director of the Office of Water Quality, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, 72118.

    You might also send a short but heartfelt note to the Voices page in hopes of keeping this vital matter high on the public radar.


    Little Rock

  • 08 Sep 2018 8:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MASTERSON ONLINE: Flowing toward ruin

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: September 8, 2018 at 2:35 a.m.

    I get it that some readers out there hope the blue-sky day will dawn when I’ll not write another word about the ongoing disgraceful contamination of our majestic Buffalo National River.

    But it has long been my nature to keep hammering on important and relevant matters with a truth mallet for as long as it takes for the system to resolve them. Our country’s first national river is both important and relevant.

    Having been born in the Ozarks and enjoyed the Buffalo as a teenager and since, I consider our state’s greatest attraction being steadily polluted because of political deals and special-interest lobbying a crime. This matter also deserves continual and national media attention well beyond what it has received.

    I recall visiting with then-gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson about the potential dangers to the Buffalo from contamination by millions of gallons of raw waste generated by the factory our very own Department of Environmental Quality (cough) wrongly allowed to set up shop five years ago on fractured karst terrain just 6 miles upstream.

    Hutchinson politely listened to my concerns that evening then said that as governor he would do everything in his power to protect the Buffalo. I believed him then because, well, I wanted to see him taking a justifiably firm stand against the forces that put their special interests ahead of what is best for all Arkansans and the nation.

    And just look where things stand now with our river found contaminated with filth and dangerous pathogens. It’s happened just as geoscientists for years have predicted it would. About 15 miles of the Buffalo have been declared impaired by contaminants, presumably stemming from the results of excessive animal-based fertilizer.

    Add to that the now similarly impaired Big Creek, a major tributary for the river, that flows alongside the spray fields for C&H Hog Farms. The portion of the algae-choked Buffalo that is obviously contaminated stretches below the point where Big Creek enters its flow.

    No one can’t rightly say they weren’t cautioned by geoscientists, geologists and hydrologists that this was inevitable if the hog factory remained on a precarious fractured subsurface above the creek and the precious river. Professor emeritus John Van Brahana (bless the man’s caring heart) and his team of volunteers were the only ones to conduct subsurface water flow dye testing around the factory (C&H wouldn’t let them on their property).

    Tests showed the dye they injected into the ground coming out miles away, traveling downhill through openings and cracks beneath surrounding hills at a speed they’d never anticipated. Their dye even showed up in the Buffalo 12 miles downstream. And that was a few years back!

    But surely the governor’s Department of Environmental Quality (cough) is ignoring extensive lobbying by the Farm Bureau and others to work diligently at pinning down the exact cause of this pollution that further threatens the river with each passing day. Doesn’t the agency devoted solely to ensuring a quality environment demand to know the source of this pollution from animal fertilizer? Rule out C&H?

    Why, no, they’re not really interested in discovering the source, they say. After all, several groups are continuing to monitor the situation for us, as if observing the steady demise of our national treasure is an acceptable reaction at this point. And the Farm Bureau still insists all goes swimmingly with the factory. Have these people gone hog wild or what?

    Isn’t such flagrant denial slightly akin to, say, police asking neighbors to monitor a nearby home as it’s vandalized each day, but not wanting to know who’s committing the crime because they then might have to publicly identify the vandals (from a prominent police supporter family), and stop them, thereby consuming a ton of crow?

    In this instance, based on timing, location and, yes, science over “raging environmentalists’ emotions,” as some rabid factory supporters like to say, all signs indicate the source likely being tons of the factory’s hog waste being steadily applied to the overloaded fields along Big Creek. So why don’t we identify the cause and bring this poisoning to a halt rather than allowing residual phosphorus (called Legacy P) to continue accumulating for another year or more as the debacle over a denied permit continues in the courtroom?

    Scientists, even those contracted by the state, say this contaminant can take up to a century to finally clear from the subsurface cracks and fissures. Yet we fiddle and hem and haw while continuing to allow it right beneath our noses.

    In an ideal world, a permit to operate should never have been granted to this factory without extensive — and I mean detailed and exact — water flow and subsurface studies by an independent contractor (not someone with direct ties to agricultural interests) being completed. That hasn’t come close to occurring five years later.

    But even in an imperfect world, I would have hoped our state’s elected leadership, Legislature and governor included, would have listened to the loud, clear warnings, revoked the permit in this location and used a rainy day (or a sunny or partly cloudy) day fund to make these factory owners financially whole to set them up in an appropriate location, and done everything possible to protect our only Buffalo National River.

    After all, even Hutchinson’s predecessor, Mike Beebe, upon leaving office, said his biggest regret was ever allowing the hog factory into the sacred Buffalo River watershed. And still the threat remains and our state’s greatest attraction is now contaminated. All for what?

    I urge every Arkansan to take five minutes to express your comment in writing over the Department of Environmental Quality’s justifiable decision not to grant a new Regulation 5 permit to this grossly misplaced factory to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality at 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, 72118 (with copies to the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission at the same address); and the governor at 500 Woodlane Ave., Little Rock, 72201; or complete a comment form at www.adeq.state.ar.us.

    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

  • 05 Sep 2018 3:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Address the hog farm

    Arkansas has been reading about this CAFO in the Buffalo watershed for going on five years, with many thanks to a columnist in this paper, Mike Masterson. But ... it's still there. Why? I think three truths about human nature are at fault.

    First, ignorance. Most of us are ignorant of many things; who has time to become well-versed in all the issues facing us, let alone this issue? Of CAFOs in Arkansas and the U.S., how many of us can speak intelligently about how many there are, how they are growing, who owns them, what percentage are owned by and exported to China (which accepts the hogs, but leaves the pollution in the U.S.), etc.? Who can speak intelligently about how much money is funded through lobbying to keep this situation as it is? Who of us in Arkansas has driven by the hog factory in Newton County and smelled the air? Who has observed the changes in the waters this factory drains into?

    Second truth of human nature: habits of thinking. We habitually think of farmers as people who own a few acres, who love the Lord, go to church, and care about animals and the land. We don't think of them like Smithfield (owned by a Chinese company), Tyson, etc., who contract with large industrial farms for the feed, and contract with CAFOs for their product, and who pass the pollution issues on to the least able to do anything about it.

    Third, indifference (perhaps the worst of these three truths about human nature). I recently participated in a few question-and-answer sessions with candidates for state office. The question of this hog factory in Newton County, or the plans for another in wine country, never came up, and when I brought it up, I could sense the indifference to this question in the room.

    I'm asking you not to be ignorant and indifferent to this issue. Make it an issue ... it's nonpartisan, and needs to be addressed.



  • 05 Sep 2018 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Preserve our treasure

    The Buffalo River is a true treasure and gem that must be preserved. I grew up in Dust Bowl Oklahoma where there were few streams, and no lakes or rivers. The few streams were weak, muddy, and flowed only occasionally. The only bodies of water were stock ponds that were muddy and polluted. On my first visit to Arkansas, up Highway 71, I was astounded by the streams and greenery I had never seen in Dust Bowl Oklahoma.

    I have lived in Northwest Arkansas for 50 years, and our family has floated the Buffalo many times in those years. As the nation's first national river, it is truly a national treasure and we absolutely must not risk the pollution to the Buffalo by a financially motivated hog farm if that, in fact, is the cause, which certainly seems to be a possibility.

    Designated by Congress in 1972 as the nation's first national river, it is a true treasure not matched anywhere else in the country. As stewards, we have an obligation to preserve this treasure for future generations to enjoy.

    I have difficulty understanding how the Department Of Environmental Quality can overlook the stark evidence of pollution closely associated with the operation of C&H. Is there something not visible here?



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