Buffalo River 
Watershed
Alliance

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  • 03 Dec 2018 2:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette

    [Excerpt]


    FRENCH HILL: Gauntlet thrown

    Committed to aiding environment by French Hill Special to the Democrat-Gazette

     

    We agree on the fact that America's first national river, the Buffalo National River, is the ultimate icon of the Natural State. Protecting this watershed is vital for the ability of Arkansans and visitors to enjoy this beautiful free-flowing resource. As a paddler and hiker, I have enjoyed its peace and majesty for over 50 years. So naturally I object to the permitting of the large-scale hog farm in the Buffalo watershed. In my view, the ball was dropped in that permitting process by the state and federal governments. I was delighted to read recently that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denied an operating permit for the hog farm. I hope an equitable solution can be found for both the landowners and the watershed.

    As to the future, I am pleased to see Gov. Asa Hutchinson act to focus on comprehensive state, federal, and private efforts to consider the Buffalo River watershed as a whole. Know that on Sept. 27, 2018, Congressman Womack and I sent a letter to the National Park Service to gain understanding of what water quality challenges it faces across the entire watershed and understand what data it has or requires supporting policy direction. You can locate this letter on my website  

    And you're right, "Of all things in this state that should be nonpartisan, the Buffalo National River should top any list." I couldn't agree more.

    As an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, I will always fight to protect our state and nation's prized natural resources for future generations to enjoy. And I hope that you don't "bite nails," but continue to advocate for common-sense environmental policies.

    ------------v------------

    U.S. Rep. French Hill represents Arkansas' 2nd District.

  • 01 Dec 2018 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    Buffalo versus hogs


    Not a sporting event--in fact, there's nothing sporting about it. As Richard Mason points out in his Nov. 25 Perspective column, economic interests nationally continue to prevail over environmental protection.


    Close to home, some progress has been made in the fight to stop factory pig farming within polluting distance of the Buffalo National River in spite of our state political leadership.


    I applaud Mr. Mason for keeping the politicians on notice and for rallying support for protecting our natural abundance. Let the pigs roam where the Buffalo doesn't!


    BILL HIRST

    Sherwood

  • 30 Nov 2018 11:36 AM | Anonymous

    Defending the Buffalo


    A long section of the Buffalo River got so foul this summer the park officials had to tell people not to swim in it. The river heads up in a wilderness area and flows into the park clear and clean, but midway through the park, it becomes green with slime because the state let a pig factory pollute it. Even the state of Arkansas does not call the polluter a farm. The state finally denied a permit for the hog factory to operate, but it may be years before it shuts down. Likely, the river will be polluted long after the operation is closed.


    The Buffalo is part of the national park system. It belongs to all Americans. It wasn't just ignorant to pollute this beautiful asset, it is arrogant and selfish, and it reinforces an embarrassing stereotype. It says we are hillbillies. It is the equivalent, an a large scale, of emptying an ash tray on a parking lot or throwing dirty diapers under a picnic table.


    In other states, this problem would not have occurred. Would the California legislature let a pig factory pollute the Merced River, which flows through Yosemite Valley? Would Wyoming let a polluter foul the Snake River where it flows through Grand Teton National Park? I could fill the rest of this column with examples. In other states, a national park is a treasure, an asset.


    Well, we're different. People say, "Poor people got poor ways." In Arkansas, rich people got poor ways.


    The river has many defenders, but unfortunately, none serve in our state Legislature. People all over the state have been expressing their disgust. The Legislature's reputation got fouled. Everybody has to serve somebody. But the Arkansas Farm Bureau?


    JOHN CASEY

    Fort Smith

  • 30 Nov 2018 8:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2018/nov/30/nwa-editorial-protection-first-20181130/


    NWA EDITORIAL: Protection firstBuffalo River findings reflect need for urgency

    by NWA Democrat-Gazette 


    From the moment Arkansas' Department of Environmental Quality granted in 2012 a permit for the operation of a large-scale hog farm near a tributary of the first national river in the nation, the National Park Service could read the algae ... er, tea leaves.

    The surprise issuance a state permit for operation of C&H Hog Farms "most certainly threatens the water quality of [the] Buffalo National River," the superintendent of the national river wrote at the time. Polluting the waters of the Buffalo would predictably hurt endangered species and, perhaps more important to state government sensibilities, tourism and the local economy based so fundamentally upon it.

    What’s the point?

    Findings of intensified algea in the Buffalo River need to also intensify the state’s response to protecting the nation’s first national river.

    The fight for the Buffalo River's protection has been raging ever since. Truth be told, though, it's raged for decades against constant pressure from environmental threats. Apparently, designation of a national river only goes so far to ensure a natural resource as vital to the state of Arkansas as it is incredible to the human experience is protected from the profit-driven hubris of mankind.

    Arkansas government seems to walk a very fine line, balancing as if on a split-rail fence. Lose balance and the fall could be into clear, environmentally healthy waters of the state's best-known natural amenity or it could go the other way, into pig waste. We know which way we'd want to go.

    Now we hear from the U.S. Geological Survey that federal research shows an increased level of pollution in the groundwater of the Buffalo River's watershed.

    That sentence should make the hearts of any nature-loving Arkansans skip a beat or two.

    The Buffalo River had 70 miles of algae this year, a distance that represents nearly half the river's length.

    It needs to be said clearly that the research does not tie the presence of algae to C&H Hog Farms.

    It sure does make you wonder, though, doesn't it?

    The findings come from multiple studies by the survey, the National Park Service and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, which most recently has denied a new operating permit for C&H Hog Farms. Among the agency's reasons is concern that the farm could be contributing to water quality issues in Big Creek, which it is closest to, and thus into the Buffalo River into which Big Creek flows.

    Such research is painstakingly slow when it comes to pointing a finger at a specific cause or contributor of pollution. So, yes, other animal agriculture could be contributing to the levels of elevated nutrients that cause ecosystem-damaging algae.

    That such findings can take years is precisely why Arkansas must be aggressive in protecting this state (and national) treasure. By the time researchers figure out what's happening, then the political process runs its course, we could be talking years -- decades even -- before damage can be undone.

    Doesn't it make more sense to jealously protect the river from damage in the first place, rather than cleaning up a mess later that could have been avoided?

    Commentary on 11/30/2018

    Print Headline: Protection first

  • 28 Nov 2018 3:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KUAF Public Radio

    Despite State-Ordered Closure, Farm Advocates Hopeful for Hog Farm's Future 

    By JACQUELINE FROELICH 


    Listen to the full report here


    In mid November, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality ordered C&H Hog Farms to cease operations, citing potential pollution of the Buffalo River watershed. The farm has been opposed by the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance since it opened six miles upstream of the Buffalo River along Big Creek. Despite the order by ADEQ, the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation is supporting the farm's operators in their legal push to exert their "rights to farm."

  • 27 Nov 2018 7:01 PM | Anonymous

    MIKE MASTERSON: Tainted water


    Groundwater contamination is on the rise in our Buffalo National River's watershed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and other sources.


    Yet none of the agencies involved in this finding (USGS, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality [cough] and the National Park Service) is able to pinpoint the source of algae blooms that are choking miles of the country's first national river in Newton County.

    A Sunday front-page news story by Democrat-Gazette environmental reporter Emily Walkenhorst outlined the group's findings.


    Here are what I derived as the most significant findings, based on the article: First and foremost, the findings presented to the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee remain incomplete and would take years of additional research to complete, although the USGS lacks the funding to do so.


    The USGS conducted tests to determine the source of increased contamination from excessive nitrates and phosphorus. Those are focused on human, cattle and poultry waste as potential culprits where Mill Creek enters the Buffalo, while similar testing for swine apparently is not planned farther downstream where Big Creek enters the river.


    That matters since C&H Hog Farms with raw-waste spray fields on or near Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo, has been dispensing nutrient-rich waste for more than five years atop fractured karst subsurface.


    The Department of Environmental Quality denied the factory's request for a renewed operating permit last week based primarily on water quality-related studies and matters related to environmental safety. The controversy over allowing C&H to operate under its original (since expired) permit has intensified after 14.3 miles of the national river, as well as the entire length of Big Creek, are proposed to be designated "impaired" waterbodies due to E. coli bacteria, pathogens, or in the case of the final 3.7 miles along Big Creek, low dissolved-oxygen levels.


    According to the news account, the studies found the Buffalo was strewn with 70 miles of algae this year, which interfered with tourists' late summer float trips along the stream. That represents about half of the 150-mile-long river, 135 miles of which flow through the national park.


    In the algae study, Dr. Billy Justus, an aquatic research biologist with USGS' Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center in Little Rock, was unable to tie C&H hogs to the steady increase in mesh-like "filamentous" algae during recent summers and needed five or six more years to draw those conclusions. But funding isn't available.


    Justus also said groundwater pollution is a significant problem since many in Newton County, most of which is in the Buffalo watershed, use wells for drinking water.


    Dr. Nathaniel Smith, state health officer and a member of the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee, wondered why genetic testing isn't being conducted for swine waste, as well as humans, poultry and cattle. Some contend feral hogs in the watershed are a possible source of pollution in the Buffalo and such studies could possibly confirm or dispel that theory. He was told the Mill Creek area didn't have enough feral hogs to justify that.


    David Peterson, president of the Ozark Society, said he'd like to verify the number: "I'd like to have the supposed issue of feral hogs put to rest once and for all."


    Genetic sequence testing hopefully would identify which animals specifically are contributing waste to Big Creek and surrounding its confluence with the Buffalo, although my understanding is that distinguishing with certainty between feral and domestic hog waste isn't yet genetically possible.


    I asked Gordon Watkins, who heads the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, for his thoughts, based on his reading.


    "C&H soil tests show all fields are ... in excess of what crops can utilize," he told me. "ADEQ cited this as a reason for the permit denial. And they continue to apply more. I think the source(s) of the algae problem may be more challenging to chase down.


    "We're interested in dye tracing on Big Creek to identify where the losing section above the mouth is emerging. The most obvious answer is in the gaining stretch of the Buffalo downstream from Carver but dye tracing is needed to confirm. If true, that would show a subterranean 'shortcut' and could shed light on the algae problem, as well as explain why nutrients in Big Creek are higher upstream than at the mouth. ... We can't keep waiting while the river continues to degrade."


    Watkins also referred to the insidious nature of phosphorus already accumulated in the soil, crannies and caves that characterize the fractured karst subsurface, which dye testing shows rapidly transports groundwater for miles in different directions.


    After five years of spreading millions of gallons of waste on the fields around Big Creek, there's no way to know how much of such hidden "legacy phosphorus" has lodged in subterranean passages. Meanwhile, additional excessive nutrients are released by rainfall and flooding to inevitably run off into Big Creek or leach into the karst and groundwater springs for decades or longer.


  • 27 Nov 2018 4:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    http://www.ktlo.com/2018/11/27/hearing-in-hog-farm-case-set-in-baxter-county-circuit-court/


    Hearing in hog farm case set in


    Baxter County Circuit Court


    C&H Hog Farms has responded to the state's official denial of a new permit by asking the Newton County Circuit Court to hold the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in contempt of court. The Arkansas Times reports a hearing on several motions in the case is scheduled for Dec. 4th in Baxter County.

    Last week the ADEQ denied C&H the needed permit for disposal of liquid hog waste. The denial was based upon the department's review of evidence of environmental risk — due to the underlying karst geology, which can allow waste to seep through and contaminate groundwater, as well as the impacts of land-applied waste washing into the nearby Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo River, and eventually into the Buffalo itself.

    The Times reports while this denial would technically begin a process mandating C&H cease operations, it noted the decision was likely to be appealed by C&H — and the hog farm would likely continue to operate thanks to a recent reprieve from Newton County Circuit Court. Asked last week about what would come next in the wake of its permit denial, an ADEQ spokesperson emailed, "ADEQ’s final permitting decision is subject to review, therefore ADEQ cannot comment at this time."

    C&H has not yet filed an appeal to that permitting decision, but it did promptly file a motion in Newton County Circuit Court asking the department be held in contempt of court for proceeding with the comment period and issuing a final decision while C&H's previous appeal — which involves a separate order issued by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission — is still ongoing.

    C&H to continue to operate its facility...until further order of this court" and that appeared to halt the ADEQ from processing the public comments it was receiving.

    On Nov. 20th, two days after receiving notice the ADEQ had issued the final permit denial, C&H filed a new motion in Newton County Circuit Court arguing the permit decision violated Putman's stay order and alleging the ADEQ should therefore be held in contempt of court saying, "On Nov. 19th, with knowledge of this court’s stay order, ADEQ issued its permit decision. ADEQ did not have jurisdiction to issue the permit decision, and the agency's conduct was in violation of the court’s stay order regarding Minute Order No. 18-20. In addition, ADEQ’s permit decision provides for a process to shut down C&H’s operations, contrary to the court’s stay order."

    These developments have led to a hearing on several motions in the case being set for Dec. 4th in Baxter County. The C&H motion to require ADEQ to show cause why it should not be held in contempt of court isn’t on the agenda yet — although it may be if C&H requests it.

    Keep in mind: The Newton County Circuit Court case is an appeal of a separate action taken by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, not ADEQ.

    Richard H. Mays, attorney for groups attempting to stop operation of the C&H in the watershed — who filed to intervene in the Newton County Circuit Court case — explained the legal gymnastics C&H is attempting with this latest motion saying,
    "The unusual aspect of it is C&H is asking ADEQ be held in contempt of a court order in a case in which it isn’t a party or to which the order is not directed. The Arkansas Pollution Control & Ecology Commission is a party, and the order was directed to it, but the Commission is a separate and distinct legal entity from ADEQ."

    The intervenors have previously argued since ADEQ is not a party at all in C&H's Newton County Circuit Court appeal of the APCEC's order, the court did not have jurisdiction to issue a stay against a wholly separate substantive action taken by ADEQ.

    The original permit C&H was awarded was discontinued altogether by the state, but C&H continued to operate for years on an expired permit.

  • 27 Nov 2018 11:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times



    More legal wrangling as C&H tries to hold on to hog feeding operation in wake of permit denial

    Posted By David Ramsey on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 9:20 AM 


    C&H Hog Farms has responded to the state's official denial of a new permit by asking the Newton County Circuit Court to hold the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in contempt of court. A hearing has been set for next week. 


    We reported last week on the final decision from the ADEQ, denying C&H the needed permit for disposal of liquid hog waste. The denial was based upon the department's review of evidence of environmental risk — due to the underlying karst geology, which can allow waste to seep through and contaminate groundwater, as well as the impacts of land-applied waste washing into the nearby Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo River, and eventually into the Buffalo itself. 

    While this denial would technically begin a process that would mandate that C&H cease operations, we noted that the decision was likely to be appealed by C&H — and that C&H would likely continue to operate thanks to a recent reprieve from Newton County Circuit Court. Asked last week about what would come next in the wake of its permit denial, an ADEQ spokesperson emailed, "ADEQ’s final permitting decision is subject to review, therefore ADEQ cannot comment at this time."

    C&H has not yet filed an appeal to that permitting decision, but it did promptly file a motion in Newton County Circuit Court asking that the department be held in contempt of court for proceeding with the comment period and issuing a final decision while C&H's previous appeal is still ongoing. 

    Here's the convoluted backstory: In September, the ADEQ proposed a draft decision to deny the permit. State officials then asked for public comments. C&H went to court and asked for a stay, pending appeal. The case is a convoluted legal thicket involving jurisdictional issues, a previous permit denial, and multiple state agencies — but the gist is that Newton County Circuit Court John Putnam issued a stay order that "allow[ed] C&H to continue to operate its facility is continued until further order of this court" and that appeared to halt the ADEQ from processing the public comments it was receiving. 

    On November 20, two days after receiving notice that the ADEQ had issued the final permit denial, C&H filed a new motion in Newton County Circuit Court arguing that the permit decision violated Putnam's stay order and alleging that the ADEQ should therefore be held in contempt of court: 

    On November 19, 2018, with knowledge of this Court’s stay order, ADEQ issued its permit decision. ...  ADEQ did not have jurisdiction to issue the permit decision, and ADEQ’s conduct was in violation of the Court’s stay order regarding Minute Order No. 18-20. In addition, ADEQ’s permit decision provides for a process to shut down C & H’s operations, contrary to the Court’s stay order. 

    A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Dec. 4 at Baxter County Courthouse in Mountain Home. 

    The original permit that C&H was awarded was discontinued altogether by the state, but C&H continued to operate for years on an expired permit. The wheels of justice grind slowly; in the mean time, millions of gallons of liquid hog waste will continue to be disposed of by a tributary of the Buffalo National River.

  • 25 Nov 2018 11:08 AM | Anonymous

    Probe: Area of Buffalo River taintedIn groundwater, pollution on rise

    by Emily Walkenhorst | Today at 3:21 a.m.


    Federal research in the Buffalo River's watershed shows increased pollution in the groundwater, according to a U.S. Geological Survey presentation prepared this month.


    Researchers have not been able to tie the presence of algae to C&H Hog Farms, a large industrial hog farm located on Big Creek, a Buffalo tributary, in a study that could take years to complete.


    The Buffalo, the country's first national river, had 70 miles of algae this year, disrupting tourists' late summer trips down the waterway. That's about half of the 150-mile Buffalo River, 135 miles of which are in the national park.


    The preliminary findings presented earlier this month to the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee come from multiple studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.


    The state Environmental Quality Department denied a new operating permit for C&H Hog Farms last week, citing, among several reasons, that the farm could be contributing to water-quality issues in Big Creek and the Buffalo.


    Research presented to the committee is not complete, and in the case of algae, it could take several more years to determine the sources of the problem. The research also has implicated other animal agriculture in the watershed as potential sources of elevated nutrients -- algae-causing phosphorus and nitrates.


    Buffalo River Watershed Alliance President Gordon Watkins said his organization has been careful, in the absence of strong evidence, not to link C&H Farms to algae growth. Still, the group is concerned about any possible increase in algae-causing nutrients in the river, which is surrounded by animal agriculture activities.


    Three studies are focused on the Buffalo's water quality. Two researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and another researcher from the Environmental Quality Department studied water quality issues and sources of those issues in Mill Creek.


    Researchers from the Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Geological Survey's Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center studied the Buffalo's water quality above and below its confluence with Big Creek.


    Billy Justus, an aquatic research biologist with the Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center in Little Rock, examined the growth of algae on the river.


    The likely sources of bacteria in Mill Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo, are cattle, poultry and humans, Justus said. In Mill Creek, the U.S. Geological Survey is testing the DNA of waste to determine its source.


    Researchers can determine what type of creatures are contributing to the pollution through genetic sequence testing of their waste. Genetic sequences of different animals' intestinal microbes are unique.


    Samples taken on Mill Creek below the Marble Falls wastewater treatment plant detected more human waste than from cattle, the two groups tested. Human waste detected was much lower upstream, where cattle waste was far higher as the sampling moved closer to cattle farms.


    Researchers do not plan to test for traces of hog manure. Dr. Nathaniel Smith, state health officer and a member of the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee, asked why not, if feral hogs are expected to be a possible source of pollution in the river. Justus said he didn't believe the Mill Creek area had enough feral hogs to justify the research.


    How many feral hogs are in the watershed is something David Peterson, who is president of the Ozark Society and who attended the committee meeting, would like to have a better measure of.



    "I'd like to have the supposed issue of feral hogs put to rest once and for all," Peterson said.


    He said more domesticated hogs, cattle and poultry farms are in the watershed than feral hogs likely are. He also said those are a bigger risk than human visitors to the Buffalo, who he said are outweighed 400 times by domesticated animals in the watershed.


    Nutrients are higher in the groundwater around Mill Creek than in the creek's surface water, researchers have found.


    The karst terrain surrounding the Buffalo River can cause surface water to seep underground.


    Pollution in the groundwater could be a problem for decades, Justus said.


    Many people in Newton County, nearly all of which is in the Buffalo's watershed, get their drinking water from groundwater wells.


    "It's very significant," Justus said.


    Nutrients were at times higher, but not significantly, in Big Creek after C&H Hog Farms went into operation, Justus said.


    "What we're seeing now is comparable to old data," Justus told the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee earlier this month.


    However, Justus said, the creek is a having a major impact on the Buffalo.


    Big Creek is the only tributary of the Buffalo to be considered "impaired" by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, in part for elevated E. coli and in part for diminished dissolved oxygen. The Buffalo is additionally considered impaired for several miles upstream of its confluence with Big Creek and several miles downstream of it, specifically for E. coli levels.


    In the algae study, researchers could not link C&H Hog Farms to the increase in "filamentous" algae on the river in recent summers, Justus said. Such algae is green and resembles mesh.


    Researchers have found that gravel bars along the river have higher phosphorous concentrations, likely contributing to phosphorus in the river.


    Some springs, including tributaries, also had higher than expected nitrate and phosphorous concentrations than researchers expected, much higher than the concentrations in "mainstem" sites, or points on the Buffalo.


    Justus wants to do additional years of research on the algae problem, although the U.S. Geological Survey does not have funding to do so. He said he thinks another five to six years is needed to determine the source of the algae.


    "If there's more money, we'd love it and can match it," Justus told the committee.


    Metro on 11/25/2018


  • 21 Nov 2018 3:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    No to new permit, state tells hog farm in Buffalo River watershed

    by Emily Walkenhorst November 21, 2018


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has denied a new operating permit for C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed, which means the farm must close because its permit has expired.

    This week's ruling is the department's final one in the case, but the farm's owners can appeal it.


    In denying the permit, the department cited water-quality issues and insufficient geological investigations of the rough karst terrain on which the farm sits.

    Information submitted with the permit application didn't "demonstrate full compliance with permitting requirements," the department wrote, and "the record contains information that the operation of this facility may be contributing to water quality impairments of waters of the state."

    The reasons cited this week were the same as those cited previously by the department, as recently as January. They refer to the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook, which was also referred to during a public comment period on the permit as being necessary in the department's regulations regarding facilities in geologically sensitive areas.

    C&H Farms sits along Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where the creek flows into the Buffalo River. The farm was permitted to house 6,503 hogs. It is the only federally classified medium or large hog farm in the area.

    Conservation groups have opposed the hog farm operating within the river's watershed, asserting that hog manure in the karst terrain of the watershed raises the risks that the river and its tributaries can become polluted.


    Unlike January's permit denial, the denial Monday was expected, and reaction to it was more subdued. It also signaled another element of the case that can be appealed and join other legal cases, which could slow or stop the closing of the farm.

    "It's a good thing, but we understand it's not over," said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, which was formed in 2013 to oppose C&H's operation.

    The permit denial is a start to helping clean up the Buffalo River, which has elevated E. coli levels, Watkins said.

    "If they stop C&H's operation today, they're still going to have to monitor Big Creek and the Buffalo for phosphorus for years," said Watkins, noting that it is unclear whether C&H has contributed to algae growth in the river.

    Steve Eddington, a spokesman for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said the department's decision was "pretty well telegraphed." He said he was unaware of anything the Farm Bureau might do to help C&H.

    "We stand behind this farm family and the science behind the farm," Eddington said.

    The farmers appealed the department's January denial of their permit, which the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission in August remanded to the department for re-issue. The department issued a draft denial in September and the final denial Monday. Commenters received notice Monday evening.

    The farmers also appealed the commission's decision to remand the permit back to the department. That case has not been settled, but a Newton County circuit judge issued a stay on the remand in October.


    Bill Waddell, an attorney for C&H, said the farmers will appeal the department's latest denial "if necessary."

    "We believe the permit decision was null and void because ADEQ acted without jurisdiction while the matter was on appeal, and the decision was made in violation of the stay order issued by Judge John Putman," Waddell wrote in an email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    Waddell and fellow attorney Chuck Nestrud filed a show-cause motion Tuesday in Newton County Circuit Court in their appeal of the commission's August remand. The motion asks Putman to order the department to "show cause" as to why the department should not be held in contempt of Putman's stay order.

    The commission is the department's appellate and rule-making body. The department is not a party in the appeal, but the commission is.

    Because C&H is in the Boone Formation, a karst area in the Ozarks, C&H needed to do a "detailed geological investigation" of the land where manure might be kept or applied to land as fertilizer, the department wrote in its 10-page "Statement of Basis" for denying the permit Monday. The department reached the same conclusion in January, but C&H did not conduct additional geologic testing.

    Karst topography is a particularly rocky surface characterized by sinkholes and caves. It's formed from the chemical weathering of other rocks, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. When water hits karst terrain, it often funnels into groundwater through cracks in the rocks.

    Facilities in such sensitive areas also need emergency action plans, the department determined, which C&H does not have. That was also among the department's reasons for denying the farm's permit in January.

    The department's Statement of Basis includes explanations of the types of information C&H should have supplied, per the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook. That information included a groundwater flow direction study from waste storage ponds; geologic investigations below the manure ponds; assessment of manure pond berms; quality assurance of manure pond construction; assessment of high-risk land application sites; manure pond operations and maintenance plan; and an emergency action plan.

    C&H also may be contributing to impairment in Big Creek and the Buffalo National River, the department wrote. The department listed the waters as "impaired" earlier this year because of elevated E. coli levels and diminished dissolved oxygen levels. Impairment means at least one of several negative elements in the water exceeds water-quality standards.

    A 14.3-mile segment toward the middle of the 150-mile Buffalo River is impaired with E. coli, but the rest of the river is not considered impaired, according to data collected through early 2017. About 15 of the 19 miles of Big Creek also are impaired because of E. coli, and the final 3.7 miles of the creek before it flows into the Buffalo River are listed as impaired because of abnormally low dissolved oxygen levels.

    Phosphorous levels in the soil where manure is being applied have increased in some places, the department noted.

    Nitrate levels have risen in the ephemeral stream and house well at the farm, the department noted. An ephemeral stream flows only during rainfall or a little after rainfall.

    The Arkansas Farm Bureau has disputed the department's citation of house well data, stating that the farmers previously measured water in a cistern as the "house well" before this year. The cistern picked up water from the well but also other sources on the farm, the Farm Bureau said.

    No research has placed blame on C&H for any problems in the Buffalo River, Eddington said. Big Creek has less E. coli downstream of the farm, the Farm Bureau has noted.

    "More than anything else, the science has shown and continues to show that C&H is not causing a problem," Eddington said. "That's been our belief and our argument all along, and we stand by that today."

    The Arkansas Phosphorus Index that calculates the amount of manure that can be applied to land is fundamentally flawed because it doesn't account for differences in karst terrain and undervalues the phosphorous levels in soil, according to Watkins.

    "API is not so much a tool to assess risk as it is a tool to allow waste disposal," he said, adding that he thinks the department's Statement of Basis indicates that officials are beginning to see its flaws.

    The department declined to comment about the permit decision because it is subject to review, spokesman Nate Olson said.

    The impairment listings and the data from the farm "further illustrate the need for C&H to provide the appropriate geotechnical data to demonstrate that this facility has been constructed" and assessments have been conducted in accordance with the handbook, the department wrote.

    C&H is owned by cousins Jason Henson, Philip Campbell and Richard Campbell. Henson did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

    C&H's owners have floated the idea of constructing even larger farms farther west. They held a community meeting in 2017 in Johnson County to explain their intention to apply for a permit for a farm in Hartman Bottoms near the Arkansas River. Many nearby residents objected because of the expected smell and the proposed location in a flood plain. The farmers never applied for that permit.

    They applied this summer for a permit to build an even bigger farm in a Franklin County flood plain, which also was opposed by neighbors. They withdrew the application last week after the department informed the farmers that the application was incomplete.

    The department listed 27 deficiencies in the permit application, including a lack of emergency planning, a lack of detail and inconsistencies. The department also noted that the area had flooded for a total of 12 days in the past 12 years above the level at which the farmers said they would build up their facility to avoid floodwaters.

    Henson informed the department in a letter dated Nov. 15 that the farmers would withdraw the application and reapply later so that the timeline for department review would restart.

    Metro on 11/21/2018

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