Buffalo River 


  • 04 Sep 2018 10:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Uphold permit denial

    A huge, toxic algae bloom has now polluted 17 to 30 miles of Big Creek, the Buffalo River, and even the White River, and become a health hazard. Recently I attended a meeting of the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to decry our so-called environmental quality department's actions in allowing C&H Hog Farms to continue operating despite the agency's denial of its permit. C&H has appealed that decision, which will be tied up in court for who knows how long, and meanwhile is permitted to keep polluting without restriction. The result is that a significant number of people, including children, have already been afflicted with rashes and worse ailments after swimming in the river, and residents say there are now far fewer tourists.

    Clearly this pollution is killing tourist trade as well as fish and wildlife. Now I read that C&H owners applied to create a new, even larger factory farm of 10,000-plus hogs near tributaries of the Arkansas River and the town of Altus in the heart of Arkansas wine country, another major tourist attraction.

    An owner of C&H approached me at the meeting and tried to convince me that the algae bloom is due to tourist activity and sunscreen application; I had to laugh.

    Scientists have been saying for years that the Buffalo River valley's highly permeable karst geology is absolutely the wrong place for factory farming and the application of millions of gallons of hog feces on the land. Please, please write and phone the governor, your representatives, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the pollution control commission to demand that they uphold the C&H permit denial (a new comment period is now being opened) and deny any future permit for another horrific factory farm.


    North Little Rock

  • 31 Aug 2018 11:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Wildlife not the same as hogs on a farm

    A small note of observation of a retired le- gal opinion from a non-Arkansawer regarding a claim that there is no to very little difference of damage done by the “several thousand hogs” compared to the “millions of deer, elk, bear and feral hogs” pooping in the same watershed to the Buffalo River.

    First of all, now the secret is out about Arkan- sas wildlife and the “millions” we harbor here.

    Secondly, I believe there is a slight density issue at stake, as I am pretty sure those “millions” are not pooping all within sight of each other.

    But then, it’s just another grey area when it comes to legal matters, and by “it,” I mean facts. 

    BILL ROBINSON Bentonville

  • 27 Aug 2018 8:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Environmental Workbook

    by Emily Walkenhost

    Appeal of permit for manure tossed

    An appeal over an approved permit modification for land application of hog manure as fertilizer was dismissed by the Arkansas Court of Appeals last week.

    Attorneys for Ellis Campbell of EC Farms argued that the appeal filed by three Newton County residents was not timely because it occurred more than 30 days after the lower court’s order.

    A Newton County circuit judge upheld the department’s decision Jan. 10. The appeal was filed Feb. 12.

    Both parties agreed that the 30-day requirements be- gan Jan. 11, but EC Farms argued the deadline to appeal was Feb. 9 and the appellants said that day was Feb. 10, a Saturday.

    Including Jan. 11, Feb. 9 is the 30th day.

    The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal with no written brief.

    Carol Bitting, Lin Wellford and Nancy Haller appealed the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission’s decision to allow EC Farms to modify its permit to accept manure from C&H Hog Farms’ for land application without opening the request to public comment.

    EC Farms modified its permit through a minor modification process, which does not require a comment period, rather than a major modification process, which does.

  • 26 Aug 2018 3:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Studies ignored
    Swine factory

    By Mike Masterson

    Widely respected hydrogeologist Thomas Aley, president of the Ozark Underground Laboratory in Protem, Mo., completed in May his investigation into the suitability of issuing a new Regulation 5 animal liquid waste permit to C&H Hog Farms.
    Aley's extremely detailed study concluded absolutely not, while emphasizing the original permit for this 6,500-swine factory in 2012 shouldn't have been issued without extensive testing.
    This constituted a critical mistake without extensive water and safety studies being demanded by our state's Department of Environmental Quality (cough) into the factory's unsuitable karst-riddled location only six miles upstream from the now impaired Buffalo National River.
    As a subsurface water flow specialist, Aley has over 50 years' experience examining karst hydrologies of the Ozarks through dye tracings to identify recharge areas for springs in and near the Buffalo.
    Most of that involves groundwater conditions in the Boone Formation, the geologic unit that underlies C&H and most of its waste-disposal spray fields.
    Our treasure has been deemed impaired by contamination from phosphorus, nitrogen and pathogens caused by excessive nutrients from fertilizers such as animal waste.
    Aley estimates that 65 percent of the water that reaches the Buffalo from areas underlain by the Boone Formation has passed into and through the karst aquifer. "So problems on the land mean problems in the river," he said.
    Surface water can quickly enter the groundwater system by infiltrating soils or cascading through sinkholes and losing streams, much as what happened in 2015 when huge amounts of phosphorus and nitrates were recorded in a major storm event as running over from two spray fields into adjacent Big Creek, a major Buffalo tributary.
    There's no telling how much has soaked for five years into the karst subsurface to linger for decades and head inevitably toward the Buffalo.
    Normally dry streams can feed appreciable amounts of water into the groundwater system in localized areas. And while surface water enters groundwater from thousands of points, most of it discharges from a limited number of springs, Aley explained.
    There is a major heavy-flow spring Aley calls Hidden Spring because it's concealed in the channel of the Buffalo River. Its exact location is unknown. "It is a very important feature of the river," he told me.
    Unfortunately, he said, the National Park Service has not had the recharge area for this spring delineated and not a single groundwater trace has been conducted to it. But that doesn't mean this spring is hiding the location of its obvious recharge area, which lies squarely in the Buffalo River's water quality impairment area, "and it looks like it's telling our bureaucrats there's a problem in its recharge area."
    Aley said the likely source for much of the water from Hidden Spring is the Big Creek Basin. And the factory sits smack dab in the center.
    Lots of things seep into the karst groundwater of north Arkansas, Aley said. "Prudence ... dictates that great care be exercised anytime a large amount of water pollutants are stockpiled on the ground or held in a waste storage pond.
    "There was a period in the karst regions of the Ozarks (late '50s to early '70s or so) when engineers were designing and building sewage lagoons for towns, industrial facilities, and some agricultural facilities," Aley continued. But that poor strategy "lost support when a number of the lagoons also lost support and either developed serious leakages or collapsed into sinkholes."
    "There were multiple lagoon collapses. A sinkhole collapse in the lagoon for the city of West Plains sent 50 million gallons of sewage through the karst groundwater to Mammoth Spring, Arkansas' largest spring," Aley continued, adding the lagoons that failed typically had clay liners made from local materials, like the two ponds at C&H.
    "Those with reasonable learning curves figured out that waste lagoons and storage ponds in karst areas were risky propositions," he said. "Unfortunately, the manure lobby is not a fast learner."
    Regarding our Buffalo, he said, should the C&H waste ponds fail, those tons of contamination would drain into the groundwater, then into one or more springs.
    It's unknown whether it would discharge from a nearby spring on Big Creek because the Big Creek Research and Extension Team (our state's paid monitor) hasn't done groundwater tracing to reveal locations potentially affected by the waste pond collapses, Aley said. If it did go to the spring, the raw waste would flow down Big Creek into the Buffalo.
    He surmised the vital Hidden Spring also is a likely destination. There, the manure would head straight to the river, creating a disaster. But that's unknown because the basic and critical technical work shamefully has not been done.
    The peer review panel recommended water balance calculations for the inadequately lined holding lagoons, Aley said. But the Big Creek Team didn't do that either. So, Aley concludes, no one knows if, or how much, they leak because it's unknown how much waste goes in.
    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.
    Editorial on 08/26/2018

  • 26 Aug 2018 1:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    A defender of natural Arkansas

    By RICHARD MASON Special to the Democrat-Gazette

    Posted: August 26, 2018 at 2 a.m.

    My favorite Broadway play is Les Miserables, in which Jean Valjean sings "Who am I?... I'm Jean Valjean ... 24601!" It's his confession that he is the escaped prisoner.

    After writing my column for several months, it seems I need to explain: Who am I?

    For exercise, I walk and jog the 167 Bypass in El Dorado. It's around three and a half miles. During the summer I'm tired and sweaty when I finish. Since I do the same route four times a week, most folks know it's me, and I get a lot of waves.However, last week I was plodding along, and as I finished the access route toward Calion Road, I heard whining mud tires, and I knew a pickup was about to pass. I glanced over my shoulder and spotted a black pickup, which was slowing down as it approached. When he got right beside me, going less than 10 mph, I was nearly blasted off the road by an air horn. You bet it bothered me, and I'm glad I don't have heart problems. It was that loud.

    But then I started thinking about the air horn blast. Does the guy pull up beside every walker or runner and blast away with his air horn? I don't think so, or he'd be arrested for harassment. So I guess the guy wanted to air honk Richard Mason. Was it because I am opposing the hog farm on the Buffalo, or maybe because I have tackled the bill to let forest companies have a free go at harvesting the national forests, or maybe because I oppose coal-fired plants that put mercury in Arkansas fish? I don't think so.

    Maybe he's the writer who sent me an email calling me "a toad-licking liberal" or the guy who said I am the worst columnist of the sorry lot on the Perspective pages which, from his email, puts me to the left of Nancy Pelosi. But after spending six years as a member and one year as chairman and designated environmental member of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission where at times the meetings were one step away from having my arm tied to another member's and each being handed a knife, I can handle the air horn. So being called a toad-licking liberal just got a small grin. Actually, that would look good on a T-shirt.

    Not all my emails are negative. I want to thank the other folks who have contacted me with positive responses. They outrank the negatives by 20 to 1. However, if you are going to stick a label on me, here are the details of my toad-licking liberal side.

    I have spent thousands of hours in Arkansas' woods, paddling up Champagnolle Creek to fish around the big cypress trees, frog gigging, running a trap line, and heading out on several thousand squirrel hunts, all of which ingrained in me an appreciation of Arkansas' natural setting. I readily join or lead the fight when Arkansas' natural heritage or wildlife is threatened.

    Does that make me a toad-licking liberal? Of course not; the majority of Arkansas folks aren't for letting the Buffalo National River be polluted by a hog farm, or seeing our national forests become company tree farms and the size of our national monuments reduced. So I don't believe the air-horn guy is anti-environmental. He and his mud tires probably spend a lot of time near the Ouachita River. He may have forgotten that I and a host of others fought the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and two very prominent Democrats to keep the Corps from making 28 river-killing bend cuts. That fight took months until our group of anti-bend cutters--Republicans and Democrats--finally prevailed.

    On top of that, I'm a free-trade no-tariffs person, and the idea that we don't have a balanced budget and keep running up the national debt is horrible. Those traits are bedrock Republican, or at least they were. And I have voted for a Republican president and local Republicans. Does that make me a Republican? No, but it doesn't make me a Democrat either.

    I'm opposing several Republicans because of their detrimental environmental policies, but I would be hounding a Democrat just as strongly. There are many things in politics that are wrong-headed short-term fixes for special interests, and the Democrats have had their share. However, today we have a party that is hell-bent on destroying the environmental progress made by a bipartisan Congress. Republicans have had a lot to do with all of the environmental bills that were passed, and many bills and regulations were Republican-initiated.

    Calling someone a liberal because they oppose the destruction of our forests, wildlife, streams and rivers is just plain wrong. When a person does that they are saying you can't be a Republican if you support things like removing the hog farm from the Buffalo National River watershed. Or if you criticize a congressman for a wrong-headed bill that would gut the Endangered Species Act you can't be a Republican. And criticism of the administration makes you a liberal, and you are subject to degrading name calling and air-honks.

    Of all the things in Arkansas that should be bipartisan, it's the Buffalo National River. But is it? Have we sunk so low that those who call themselves Republicans will stand back and ignore the destruction of our national river to keep from being called a toad-licking liberal? It will be a sad day for our state if the silence of thousands of Democrats and Republicans causes the demise of our river.

    For the last several years, we have all but stopped talking about issues and have tried to label everyone running for office as either conservative or liberal. You can't be a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican. What happened to bipartisan voting on issues?

    Let's stop calling all Republicans conservatives and all Democrats liberals. Wouldn't it be great if we once again had campaigns where the best interests of our country are front and center instead of seeing who can trash the other candidate more? Let's stop the name-calling, and just call us Americans.

    But if you still want to label me, tag me with what's in my heart, it's the love of a natural Arkansas and its wildlife. Am I a damn tree hugger? You bet I am.

    Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email richard@gibraltarenergy.com.

    Editorial on 08/26/2018

  • 26 Aug 2018 9:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    REX NELSON: Save the Buffalo

    by Rex Nelson | Today at 1:56 a.m.

    Another school year has begun in Arkansas and surrounding states. Tourism in the Ozarks has slowed. I'm alone as I stand on the banks of the Buffalo River at Tyler Bend on a Wednesday afternoon. It's unseasonably cool for an August day, and storm clouds can be seen to the west.

    I stay here for almost 30 minutes, watching the water flow gently to the east and thinking about what this stream, which was designated by Congress in 1972 as the nation's first national river, has come to mean to Arkansans.

    In Arkansas--which refers to itself as the Natural State--the Buffalo, more than any other natural feature, now symbolizes who we are. It has, through all the battles to keep it pure, become a part of our very soul.

    Here's how the National Park Service describes it in its literature: "It nestles in the Arkansas Ozark Plateau, which is bounded on the north, east and south by the Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas rivers. Earliest maps called this the Buffaloe Fork of the White River, no doubt for the now extinct woodland bison. Originating high in the Boston Mountains, the Buffalo drops steadily to its confluence with the White, 151 miles to the east. The gradient is steeper and the water faster on the upper river, but the river levels out and slows down over its course. Long, quiet pools between rapids disguise its vertical fall.

    "Side trips to hollows flanking the river dramatize this land's wildness and isolation. Some of the many prehistoric and historic cultural sites are 8,000 years old. There are village sites on river terraces, seasonal bluff shelters of prehistoric hunters and gatherers, and farmsteads of the Mississippian people who raised corn on floodplains or of ancestral Osage Indians who hunted along the Buffalo in historic times. Remains of early settlers' cabins abound. In Boxley Valley, you can see traditional farming. Other places--like Parker-Hickman Farmstead in Erbie, the 1920s Collier Homestead at Tyler Bend, and Rush Mining District and Civilian Conservation Corps structures at Buffalo Point--illustrate conspicuous events or the threads of Buffalo River history."

    Before walking to the river, I had spent time at Tyler Bend Visitors' Center, refreshing my memories of the battle to save the Buffalo. It was just me and the park ranger at the desk in those 30 minutes prior to the 4:30 p.m. closing time. I looked at the bumper stickers on display--"Dam the Buffalo" and "Save the Buffalo."

    I would read about those political battles in the Arkansas Gazette on a seemingly daily basis as a boy. On one side was the Buffalo River Improvement Association, led by James Tudor of Marshall. Its members felt that a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment on the river would bring economic development to a poor part of Arkansas. On the other side was the Ozark Society, which held its organizational meeting on the University of Arkansas campus at Fayetteville on May 24, 1962. Earlier that month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas had taken a canoe trip down the river that attracted media attention. Neil Compton, a Bentonville physician, was elected the first Ozark Society president.

    The congressman for Arkansas' 3rd District, James Trimble, sided with the Buffalo River Improvement Association. Public opinion turned through the years, and popular Gov. Orval Faubus announced in December 1965 that he opposed damming the Buffalo. In 1966, Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt defeated Trimble, a Democrat. Hammerschmidt came out in favor of a national park along the river. The state's two Democratic U.S. senators, J. William Fulbright and John L. McClellan, introduced park legislation in 1967. President Richard M. Nixon signed the legislation creating the Buffalo National River on March 1, 1972.

    Now, 46 years later, the Buffalo is again imperiled. A tipping point came last month when the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality listed about 14 miles of the Buffalo as impaired. That listing was based on water samples that showed high E. coli levels in the river and about 15 miles of its Big Creek tributary. The flash point in recent years has been C&H Hog Farms, a facility where more than 6,500 hogs are raised along Big Creek, about six miles from where the creek runs into the Buffalo. The farm was established almost six years ago near Mount Judea in Newton County. I have friends on both sides of this issue. Some believe that waste runoff from the hog farm has polluted Big Creek and the Buffalo. Others believe the farm has been unfairly singled out by environmentalists.

    In April 2017, the American Rivers advocacy group ranked the Buffalo as one of the country's 10 most endangered streams. Since the hog farm was established, there have been several significant algal bloom events in the river, including toxic blue-green algae this summer. I attended an event a couple of years ago at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute atop Petit Jean Mountain during which former Gov. Mike Beebe was asked to name his biggest regret during his eight years as governor. Without a second's hesitation, he replied: "I wish we had never approved that damn hog farm."

    I believe in scientific studies. I also know something about the Arkansas psyche and what makes us tick as a people. Yes, the Buffalo defines us. It's time for Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the 135 members of the Arkansas Legislature to declare that it's unacceptable for parts of the Buffalo River to be impaired. Perhaps it's also time for the state to take the extraordinary step of admitting it made a mistake and then using surplus funds to purchase the hog farm, allowing the owners to recoup their investment.

    Democrats and Republicans must come together, just as they did in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the Natural State, history will not judge kindly those who fail to act at this moment of crisis.

    It was Arkansas native Jimmy Driftwood who sang of the Buffalo as "Arkansas' gift to the nation, America's gift to the world." Once more, the time has come to save the Buffalo.


    Rex Nelson is a senior editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    Editorial on 08/26/2018

    Print Headline: Save the Buffalo

  • 25 Aug 2018 5:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Panel orders reissue of hog-farm denial Permit decision must be draft, it says

      by  Emily Walkenhorst |

    An application for a hog farm permit will return to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to be reconsidered during a new public-comment period, the agency's appellate body decided Friday in a unanimous vote.

    The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission's order reopens consideration of the permit for the 6,503-hog operation that sits within the Buffalo River's watershed. The effect of C&H Hog Farms on the country's first national river has been the subject of debate since the farm opened in 2013.                    


    Under the order, the Environmental Quality Department must reissue its final decision to deny C&H Hog Farms' permit as a draft decision. Then it must accept public comments for at least 30 days before reviewing the comments and issuing a final decision.

    The agency denied C&H Hog Farms' new operating permit in January, 21 months after the owners applied. The department took nearly a year before the denial to read and respond, as required by law, to the more than 19,000 public comments submitted on the permit application.

    After Friday's decision, some in attendance speculated that a new permit decision could take another year and likely would be followed by another appeal process.

    The order found that the department erred in not issuing its denial of C&H's new operating permit as a draft decision. The department had issued a preliminary approval in February 2017, a decision that public comments were accepted under.

    C&H's attorneys argued that draft decisions are required for new positions taken by the department on whether a permit should be approved.

    Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton agreed, issuing an order in July recommending that the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission approve his finding.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality disputed Moulton's conclusion, contending that Ark. Code Ann. 8-4-203(e)(1), which was cited by both parties as the basis of their arguments, only asks the department to issue a final decision after a comment period, which the department did.

    Commissioners approved the recommended order Friday with no vocal dissent and after little discussion. The meeting, which began at 9 a.m., was over by 10:30 a.m.

    "It was procedural," said Bekki White, a commissioner who is also director of the Arkansas Geological Survey.

    Commissioner Gary Wheeler, chief medical officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, agreed. The order did not require commissioners to decide on the merits of the case but instead asked for a decision on a "straightforward procedural question," he said.

    Moulton told commissioners before the vote that he predicted, barring another procedural issue in the C&H permitting process, that "unfortunately, yes, the merits are going to come back to us." The comment drew laughter among some commissioners.

    C&H's owners referred questions about Friday's vote to their attorney, Chuck Nestrud.

    Nestrud had submitted a request July 30 for an alternative minute order to be adopted instead of the one drafted by Moulton that was approved Friday. Nestrud's proposed order asked Moulton to write that the department's "decision to deny the Regulation No. 5 permit without public notice is reversed, and this matter is remanded to ADEQ."

    Ultimately, commissioners decided to incorporate the use of the word "remand" but not "reverse."

    Commissioner Chris Gardner, a Jonesboro attorney, said he believed the word "reverse" signified a decision on the merits of the department's decision to deny the permit, rather than a decision on the procedure surrounding the denial.

    "It's just different," Nestrud said after the vote, adding that it was not what C&H wanted.

    Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said he was not surprised by the commission's unanimous vote. He said that in his experience, votes tend to align with the recommendations of the administrative law judge.

    The group's attorney, Richard Mays, said they had opposed sending the permit back out for comment but said the decision is acceptable. After Moulton issued his recommended decision, Mays said resolving the procedural issue at hand may be best for everyone in the long run so that it doesn't get brought up in future appeals.

    Watkins said his group plans to resubmit the more than 100 pages of comments it submitted in 2017 on the department's initial approval of C&H's permit application. The group also plans to submit more comments based on new information, including the department's recent finding that part of the Buffalo River and nearly all of Big Creek are impaired for dissolved oxygen or E. coli.

    "I think we've got a lot of good information," he said.

    C&H Hog Farms operates on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek drains into the Buffalo River. The farm is the only federally classified medium or large hog farm in the area.

    The typical hog farm doesn't need to renew its permit or apply for a new one without making major modifications because such operations are permitted under Regulation 5. But C&H is the state's only hog farm permitted under another category, Regulation 6, which is an expired program that issued permits that last only five years before requiring renewal.

    C&H is operating under its Regulation 6 permit, which expired in late 2016, as it awaits a final resolution on its Regulation 5 permit application.

    A 14.3-mile segment toward the middle of the 150-mile river, upstream and downstream of the confluence with Big Creek, is impaired. The amount of pathogens exceeds water-quality standards in that area. The rest of the river is not listed as impaired.

    About 15 miles of Big Creek also is categorized as impaired, again because of pathogens, and the final 3.7 miles of the creek before it flows into the Buffalo is listed as impaired because of abnormally low dissolved oxygen levels but not for the presence of pathogens.

    The source of the pathogens is unknown, according to the department's report.

    Nearly 1.5 million people visited the Buffalo River in 2017 and spent $62.6 million supporting 911 jobs, according to the National Park Service.

    A Section on 08/25/2018

  • 24 Aug 2018 3:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette

    Permit application for hog farm in Buffalo River’s watershed to be reconsidered 

    by Emily Walkenhorst

    A contentious hog farm permit application will return to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to be reconsidered during a new public comment period, the agency’s appellate body decided in an unanimous vote Friday.

    The order reopens consideration of a 6,503-hog farm in the Buffalo River’s watershed. The effect of C&H Hog Farms on the country’s first national river has been the subject of debate since the farm opened in 2013.

    Under the order, the department must reissue its final decision to deny C&H Hog Farms’ permit as a draft decision instead. Then it must accept public comments for at least 30 days before reviewing the comments and issuing a final decision.

    The agency denied C&H Hog Farms’ new operating permit in January, 21 months after the farmers applied. The department took nearly a year before its denial to read and respond, as required by law, to the more than 19,000 public comments submitted on the permit application.

    After Friday’s decision, some in attendance speculated that a new permit decision could take another year and would likely be followed by another appeal process.

  • 23 Aug 2018 3:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    C&H's owners propose new hog operation near Arkansas River 

    by Emily Walkenhorst

    The owners of the Buffalo River watershed's only large-scale hog farm are proposing to build a 10,374-hog operation near the Arkansas River and Cedar Creek in Franklin County, according to an application submitted to environmental regulators.

    The farm is at least the second proposed by the owners of C&H Hog Farms within the past year for the state's northwest corner near Arkansas River bottoms. Both have met opposition from people concerned about smell and the potential effect on recreational activities, and both have been proposed in flood-risk zones.

    C&H's owners previously discussed starting a large hog farm in Hartman Bottoms near the Arkansas River but have not submitted an application.

    The proposal for Coon Tree Farm, which would sit along Coon Tree Road, would have three barns, three indoor concrete-lined holding ponds for manure that would be spread on 1,923.4 acres of row crop land owned by dozens of other people in Franklin and Johnson counties.

    Philip Campbell, who is listed as president of the proposed operation on the application submitted to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday.

    The application is for a Regulation 5 permit, which sets parameters for operations based on the individual site and proposed activity. The permit never expires.

    Officials with the Arkansas Farm Bureau said Thursday that they were aware of discussions to open a hog farm in Franklin County but had not been involved in them. They said a farm with more than 10,000 hogs would be "pretty big" but said they did not know how it compared in size with other hog farms in the state.

    The Department of Environmental Quality declined to comment on whether the farmers needed to submit any more materials for their proposed operation but said the permit is being reviewed. Typically the department has 120 days from the application date to reach a preliminary decision to approve or deny the permit. That decision then goes out for a 30-day public comment period, after which the department is supposed to review and consider the comments before reaching a final decision. The farm's application was submitted July 23.

    The farmers are renting the Franklin County land from Rick and Susan Hurst, according to a document submitted to the department.

    The storage capacity for the hog manure pits is for 365 days, according to the application. The department's minimum requirement is 180 days.

    Campbell expects that 292,851 cubic feet of manure would be produced in 180 days. It's unclear how many pounds of manure that would be.

    The bottoms of the manure holding pits likely would be about 12 feet above groundwater, according to the application.

    The soil in the area is Caspiana silt loam and Bruno loamy fine sand, Campbell said in the application.

    That area of Franklin County is a special flood-hazard area, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps. The lowest barn floor will be built 3.5 feet above the flood plain's flood elevation, according to the application.

    The farm is about 3,000 feet northwest of the nearest residence, business, church or school and about 388 feet north of an unnamed tributary of Cedar Creek, according to the application.

    Altus Mayor Veronica Post said she has heard concerns from several dozen people in the past few months as word spread that the area could become home to a large-scale hog farm. People stopped her in the grocery store and at church or called her at work, she said.

    "With respect to those citizens, I do believe it would have a negative or detrimental effect on the environment," Post said.

    The concerns often have to do with odor or the possibility that during regular rainfall manure could run off the property and into the Arkansas River, where people swim, boat and fish. Post said one neighboring farmer called and was staunchly opposed because of environmental concerns.

    "It's a beautiful resource, it's a beautiful area," Post said.

    Post said she hadn't heard from supporters of the farm but noted that those who oppose plans are often the most vocal.

    Franklin County Justice of the Peace Brian Lachowsky of Altus said he expected to be able to smell the farm from his home on Arkansas 186, about 4 miles from where the farm is proposed.

    The farm would be about 5.6 miles southeast of central Altus.

    Lachowsky is worried that a strong odor or manure runoff could harm tourism at wineries or activities near the farm.

    Other farms in Alix Bottoms -- the area just south of Alix and just above the Arkansas River -- are row crop farms, Lachowsky said. He didn't know what types of fertilizer those farmers use, whether it's commercial fertilizer or animal waste.

    He said he was concerned about the potential for a manure leak.

    "The unknown is often very scary, and obviously they have a valid concern," Post said, referring to people who have contacted her about the farm.

    Post and Lachowsky said they had not seen the farm's application so they couldn't comment on specifics in the proposal.

    In a review of Department of Environmental Quality data and records last year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette found that hog farms spilled manure into Arkansas waterways at least 16 times between 1996 and 2017, according to state inspections. More than 50 fish were killed in a Pope County pond as the result of a spill in 1998, but the spills were not as large as some that have occurred in other states.

    Records don't always detail follow-up inspections, but in some cases the causes of the leaks were addressed right away.

    Spills, leaks, overflows and unauthorized discharges were noted 339 times in the 1,332 inspection violation records analyzed by the newspaper. That figure does not count multiple spills listed in a single report, because multiple spills often were not recorded as separate spills.

    In the past 10 years, records indicate that leaks have occurred less frequently as the number of hog farms has diminished.

  • 23 Aug 2018 8:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    TONY HILLIARD: Buffalo River endangered by hog farm

    By Tony Hilliard Special to the Democrat-Gazette

    Posted: August 23, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

    The Buffalo River has been a part of my life since 1965, from Boxley to Buffalo City. For the past four years I've noticed the increased algae in the Tyler Bend area of the river. Last summer while canoeing to Gilbert, I just cried because the algae was by far the worst I had ever experienced in my 50-plus years of going to the Buffalo. It's worse this year.

    Our national treasure is being vandalized.

    The algae blooms are caused by excess nutrients in the water. The only source of those nutrients is animal manure. The math is simple, based on recent articles in the Democrat-Gazette. The writers noted that C&H Hog Farms, located on Big Creek, is built for 6,500 hogs, and an adult hog produces four times as much waste as an adult human. The National Park Service states that the Buffalo River has about 1.5 million visitors each year, creating almost 1,000 jobs and bringing in almost $100 million in revenue.

    Assume all the tourists are adults averaging two days on the river (most are one-day trips). Assume all poop and pee only in or near the river with 100 percent of their waste entering the watershed. (The Park Service provides great facilities, so this is a huge overstatement.) Do the math: 1.5 million visitors times two days each equals 3 million days of manure in the Buffalo watershed.

    Now, assume the hog farm averages 5,000 hogs, not 6,500. Assume these hogs are young with average manure only twice that of a human. The hogs pee and poop within the watershed year-round and the manure is spread within the watershed. That equates to 3.65 million equivalent days of manure going into the Buffalo River, compared to 3 million days of manure from all the tourists on the Buffalo River.

    By itself C&H more than doubles the nutrient load on the Buffalo River from "outside" sources. Further, C&H concentrates that manure from the Big Creek confluence downstream, stealing that section of the Buffalo from us.

    Nothing else changed within the Big Creek watershed which could contribute to this level of algae.

    On July 27 a church group borrowed my trailer and canoes to float Tyler Bend to Gilbert on the Buffalo, 31 miles downstream from Big Creek. They encountered thick algae the entire trip.

    On Aug. 4, because of that group's experience below Big Creek and the July 26 Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality alerts about the risk from algae downstream of Big Creek, I took our church youth group upstream to float Hasty to Carver. Big Creek enters the Buffalo right below Carver. The river was low but we encountered no green algae until we reached the Carver pool, when clumps of it began to appear. The extreme algae blooms on the Buffalo are directly tied to hog manure spread along Big Creek.

    C&H stated the manure plan would not harm the watershed. They were wrong. C&H has followed their manure plan with no reported failures of their system, yet we have the July 26 Department of Environmental Quality alert and algae clogging the river. The extreme algae bloom was not on the Buffalo River five years ago. The only real change is the hog farm.

    There is no way to fix the current hog farm except to end its operation. The Ozarks within the Buffalo River watershed are too porous to contain the manure spread on the fields. We have the mess below Big Creek to prove this point.

    C&H has a right to build what they want on their property, but they do not have the right to steal or vandalize their neighbor's property. Pollution from C&H Hog Farms is stealing our property, our national treasure, and vandalizing it.

    I beg the Department of Environmental Quality to uphold its denial of C&H's permit to operate the hog farm within the Buffalo River watershed. I beg Cargill and Farm Bureau to withdraw their support for any hog farm in the watershed. They are endangering a significant number of tourism jobs and revenue by this shortsighted support of a hog farm in the wrong location.

    To the members of the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, I'll take any of you on a canoe trip from Hasty to Mount Hershey so you can see for yourself. It's an 11-mile float. You can see the Buffalo above and downstream of Big Creek and the hog farm. You don't need any help seeing the problem, it's very evident. The editor has my contact information.

    Both sides are invited. Name the date or do it without me; just do it before the weather cools.

    I love that river.


    Tony Hilliard of Little Rock is a lawyer at Ramsay, Bridgforth, Robinson and Raley LLP law firm in Pine Bluff.

    Editorial on 08/23/2018

© Buffalo River Watershed Alliance
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software