Buffalo River 


  • 19 Oct 2018 12:22 PM | Anonymous

    Court order puts Arkansas hog farm's permit application process on hold

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: October 19, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

    A circuit judge has paused a state commission's order that had reopened a permit application process for a large-scale hog farm within the Buffalo River watershed.

    Newton County Circuit Judge John Putman's order means environmental regulators can't take action on the application for the time being, an attorney for the hog farm said.

    C&H Hog Farms, which is permitted to house up to 6,503 hogs on Big Creek, had requested the stay after first petitioning the commission to reopen the permit application. The commission granted the request, but C&H then appealed that decision to Newton County Circuit Court, arguing that the commission did not completely support everything C&H had asked for in the petition.

    An attorney for intervening environmental groups called C&H's actions a tactic to delay the process until the Arkansas Legislature or someone else can help the owners keep their farm open.

    The appeal and a motion from the state to dismiss the appeal are pending in court.

    A spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, which had issued a draft decision denying the permit application, said the department was not a party to the case and noted that the public comment period on the draft decision has been extended to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

    The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission ruled Aug. 24 that the Department of Environmental Quality erred in issuing a final decision denying C&H Hog Farms' new operating permit, rather than issuing a preliminary decision.

    The ruling required environmental regulators to issue a tentative denial of the permit Sept. 17, and the department has been accepting public comments on the proposal before issuing a final decision.

    Putman ordered the stay Wednesday, about a month and a half after C&H first requested it. C&H asked for the stay Sept. 6 and appealed the commission's decision because it did not reverse the department's permit denial issued in January.

    In February, the commission ordered a stay on the department's denial, allowing C&H to continue operating under its expired permit. On Wednesday, Putman also ordered that stay to continue.

    Chuck Nestrud, one of C&H's attorneys, said Putman's decision means the commission's order has "effectively not been issued."

    Otherwise, Nestrud said, it doesn't mean much. Stays are common when an issue is in two courts, he said. In this case, the permit was being discussed in circuit court and was subject to a commission order in another legal jurisdiction, he said.  "I don't know that there's any legal significance to what's going on," he said.

    Richard Mays, an attorney for intervenors opposed to C&H, said the stay represents another delay in resolving the permit issue. C&H had been the ones to ask the commission to reopen the matter and send the permit back to the department in the first place, he said.

    "They got 99 percent of what they wanted," Mays said.

    The farm's location in rocky karst terrain means it doesn't meet the state's technical requirements for a hog farm site, he said.

    "It's an unsuitable location for a hog farm, so they're trying their best to obfuscate and delay and hope that somebody will come to their rescue," Mays said.

    The order issues two stays: One on the department's January permit denial that would prompt the closure of C&H; and one on the commission's decision to send the permit application back to the department to be reopened under a new draft decision.

    In his order, Putman said the Newton County circuit court "obtained jurisdiction over C&H's application" when the farm appealed the commission's decision Sept. 6.

    C&H's attorneys argued in their request for a stay that one was needed "to avoid potential confusion and preserve the status quo of C&H's operating authority pending completion of C & H's appeals to the Court and any other appellate courts to which this matter may be appealed."

    The C&H farmers are concerned that the department "will not seriously engage in the regular application process," which would include an opportunity for the department to decide whether modifications proposed by the farmers would be adequate before the farmers spend money making the modifications, the stay request reads.

    In September, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office, on behalf of the commission, contended that the commission's review process is complete, ending the stay that the commission had approved in February to allow C&H to keep operating.

    Further, the attorney general's office argued, C&H received "the very relief" it had asked for twice.

    "It is hard to conceive of any rationale for their current request to prevent ADEQ from complying with the law and doing the very thing that the Appellant asserted was required of ADEQ under the law," the attorney general's office wrote.

    C&H will get a chance to address the merits of the permit denial under the new public comment period, which may raise different issues than the first public comment period on the farm's permit application did, the attorney general's filing reads.

    Additionally, the department is not a party to the appeal and can't be bound by the circuit court's judgment, the filing says.

    The department denied C&H's permit application in January after first giving it preliminary approval the previous year. Public comments were accepted then under the premise that the department planned to issue the permit.

    In January, the department changed course and issued a final permit denial, citing a lack of a geological investigation to determine whether the hog farm's site was appropriate and a lack of an emergency action plan.

  • 19 Oct 2018 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harrison Daily Times

    Something political happened for hog farm

    • Staff Report news@harrisondaily.com
    • Oct 18, 2018

    JASPER -- The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Office of Water Quality held a public hearing Tuesday night at the Jasper School on the proposed draft decision to deny the Regulation 5 permit application of C&H Hog Farms, Inc., in Newton County. At its conclusion the public comment period which was to end Wednesday, Oct. 17, was extended seven days to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 24. Proponents for the farm had asked for a 20-day extension.

    In September, ADEQ issued a draft decision denying the farm's new operating permit needed to replace its expired one. The department cited a lack of required information submitted by the owners, including a geologic investigation and emergency action plan. The farm is allowed to continue operating under its expired permit until the permit application process has concluded.

    It was the second public hearing on the denial. The first was held in Little Rock on Oct. 9.

    The farm operates near Mt. Judea along Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo National River. Waste from the farm is applied on several area pastures.

    Opponents of the 6,503-hog-capacity facility say it is to blame for pollution and algae growth in the river above and below where Big Creek enters it.

    Supporters of the farm point out that Big Creek doesn't have any algae growth and that much of the impairment and bad water quality testing occurred above the farm and above the Big Creek confluence with the Buffalo.

    Tuesday night's continuation lasted around an hour and 45 minutes during which 34 individuals made statements concerning the issue. Others submitted written comments. Speakers were given 3.5 minutes to make their comments.

    Many of the speakers were neighbors of the hog farm. Other speakers came as far away as Mountain Home, Fayetteville, Maumelle and Hot Springs Village.

    A good many of the farm's supporters wore C&H hog farm stickers. Several pointed out that the farm has been closely monitored over the past five years. During that time the farm has never been cited for any environmental violations.

    Dustin Cowell of Mt. Judea pointed that out in his comments. It's not fair that C&H is having to meet qualifications that no other farm in the state has had to meet, he said. This is the only farm in 2,200 to ever be denied a permit, he noted. "I would like sound science to rule the day. If this farm can be shut down with no evidence they can come in and shut down my farm," he said.

    Newton County Justice of the Peace Arlis Jones read a resolution that the quorum court passed last February supporting the farm. He overran his allowed time which prompted an admonishment by the hearing's facilitator.

    Gordon Watkins of Parthenon, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said the organization made oral comments at the previous hearing and submitted 130 pages of written comments. He said he was speaking Tuesday night on behalf of himself as an individual. He used his time to speak out against the undue influence of big money and special interest, namely Arkansas Farm Bureau, for creating the current situation. Lobbyists crafted regulations in 2011 that didn't mandate public notice about the permit before it was issued, he declared. If proper notice had been provided the public would have made the same convincing arguments as today. By insisting that the regulations be properly followed the permit would have been denied.

    "We wouldn't be here today and C&H wouldn't be in the bind they're in," he said.

    Jerry Masters, executive vice president of the Arkansas Pork Producers Association, made a request for a 20-day extension because there is a lot of support for C&H and for the families that own it.

    He said last November something political happened. ADEQ began to ask for more information for the permit. The owners were notified that the application was complete and then they were denied the permit. The reason, he said, was that ADEQ raised the standard. There was a change in attitude where C&H was concerned, he said before his comment time ran out.

    Some speakers said they wanted to use their time to speak on behalf of the river as it does not have a voice. One woman from Marshall apologized for showing emotion at the previous hearing held in Little Rock.

    "I am a person who loves the river," she said. "That's how upsetting this impairment of the Buffalo River has been for me." She made a plea to "stop and think" what could be achieved if everyone agreed to do what is best for the river.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Written comments on the draft denial and requests for information regarding the draft denial may also be submitted by email at Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us or by mail to ADEQ, ATTN: C&H Draft Denial at 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, Arkansas 72118.

  • 19 Oct 2018 8:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    C&H hog farm sues state over records request

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: October 19, 2018 at 4 a.m.
    Updated: October 19, 2018 at 4 a.m.

    C&H Hog Farms has sued the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality over an unfulfilled public records request.

    In the petition to Newton County Circuit Court, the farmers seek the delivery of the requested records and for the public comment period on the department's draft decision denying the farmers' application for a new operating permit to remain open "for a reasonable period of time" after providing the records.

    The farmers submitted a records request to the department Oct. 10 under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The requested records include communications between the department and several outside agencies and individuals regarding the application for a new operating permit. The request also sought permits, nutrient management plans and communications regarding permit approvals or denials in any location known to or suspected to have karst or under a program addressing water pollution.

    On Monday, the department wrote in an email to Jason Henson, one of the C&H owners, that the request was for "such a voluminous and broad category of records" that the department "cannot locate and identify potentially responsive records with reasonable effort."

    The department cited Ark. Code Ann. 25-19-105(a)(2)(C), which states that records requests "shall be sufficiently specific to enable the custodian to locate the records with reasonable effort."

    The department asked Henson to revise his request to include details such as "a date range, specific subject matter, or specific recipients/senders."

    In its petition, C&H contends that the request was carefully worded and that the department "is precisely the agency with knowledge as to what documents are responsive to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request."

    The farmers need the documents in order to file their public comments, the petition reads.

    The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission received the same request and had already provided documents, the filing notes.

  • 18 Oct 2018 12:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Hog farm gets a reprieve in Newton County circuit court

    Max BrantleyOctober 18, 2018

    Richard H. Mays, attorney for groups attempting to stop operation of the C and H Hog Farm in the Buffalo River watershed, reports that Newton County Circuit Judge John Putman issued an order yesterday that will allow the hog feeding operation to continue despite the state's intent to deny a permit for disposal of liquid hog waste. 

    The situation is convoluted. 

    As Mays explains it, the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission has asked for public comments on the notice that the Department of Environmental Quality had decided to deny the permit, based on environmental risks, both from potential of pollutants reaching underground water and the effects of land-applied waste washing into tributaries of the Buffalo River. 

    C and H went to court asking for a stay of that order, which closed its departmental appeal. The judge said the circuit court now has jurisdiction to hear C and H's appeal of that decision and issued a stay pending further litigation. 

    Commented Mays: 

    The ramifications of this Order are not altogether clear, but it appears that ADEQ will not be able to process the comments that it is currently receiving in response to the Notice of Intent to Deny Permit and move forward with the denial, pending further Order from Judge Putman. It is possible that the Commission (acting through Attorney General. Rutledge) may appeal this Order, but we don't know that yet.  

    Bottom line: 

    In the meantime, the Order allows the hog farm to continue operation.

    Mays, who represents the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said he'll be responding in due course.

    Here's the judge's order

  • 13 Oct 2018 9:03 AM | Anonymous

    Obvious power grab

    After reading the two guest columns on the Voices page Monday morning, I felt I had to quote Judge Grisham Phillips' first sentence: "Issue 1 is the most un-American constitutional amendment referred to Arkansas citizens by the Legislature during my lifetime."

    This did not even mention what I consider to be the most important part of this obvious power grab by some in our Legislature. If passed, the rules for courts top to bottom could be set by these questionable legislators. This is the reason this issue is being ruled on by our Supreme Court. I can only hope that it will follow the rule of law to remove this as unconstitutional, and no votes will be counted. We are still waiting for a decision.

    When I got to the bottom of the next column, in favor of Issue 1, I saw that it was written by the executive vice president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. That's the same group that believes the hog farm that is quickly destroying our first national river should be allowed to continue. It is but a lobbyist organization now that favors big business and large corporate farms that have made it harder for the small family farms to operate. It is not the same Farm Bureau I remember when I grew up.

    If issue 1 reaches the ballot box, please vote no. The legislators that referred it do not represent anything but their own interests. We have found out this year what money in politics can create. Better ethics reform is needed desperately. Better yet, better legislators.


  • 10 Oct 2018 7:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette

     Sides at hog-farm hearing claim backing of science

      by  Emily Walkenhorst | Today at 4:30 a.m.                                



    A supporter of and opponents of C&H Hog Farms both cited science as the basis of their opinions at the first of two public hearings this month on the farm's permit application.

    In September, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a draft decision denying the farm's new operating permit, which it needed to replace its expired one. The department cited a lack of required information submitted by the owners, including a geologic investigation and emergency action plan, and speculated about the farm's possible contribution to documented pollution near its location.


    The farm is allowed to continue operating under its expired permit until the permit application process has concluded.

    C&H Hog Farms operates on Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo National River. Recent findings of pollution in Big Creek and a portion of the Buffalo River that stretches above and below the confluence with Big Creek have prompted long-time opponents of the hog farm to blame the 6,503-hog-capacity facility for the problems and for algae growth along the middle Buffalo.

    Supporters of the farm point out that Big Creek doesn't have any algae growth and that much of the impairment and bad water quality testing occurred above the farm and above the Big Creek confluence with the Buffalo. Further, a significant amount of the data considered was submitted by hog farm opponents.

    The National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Arkansas System's Agriculture Division also contributed data for the two waters. In the past, hog-farm opponents have questioned at times the university's data collection, which they have called insufficient and potentially biased because of the Agriculture Division's ties to the farming community.

    C&H opponents cite their own dye tracing study that has shown water can flow through the karst terrain and appear upstream of where it was before.

    On Tuesday, opponents of the farm cited the 14 million gallons of hog manure spread as fertilizer as being the cause of the pollution. Supporters of the farm, including one who delivered a comment Tuesday, have argued that evidence is not conclusive and that other activities may be contributing to the impairment.

    Some comments got heated and included insults about some people's mental health and involved rural stereotypes.

    "It's inappropriate to site a CAFO [concentrated animal feeding operation] like C&H in karst," said Marti Oleson, a Ponca resident. She added that she heard concerns about the Buffalo from two Norwegians who visit the river each time they visit the United States.

    "This is not just a Newton County issue or an Arkansas state issue," she said.

    Feral hogs have been increasing in number, said Newton County resident Jared Wheeler, and they are contributing to the problem.

    The algae is not coming from C&H, Wheeler said.

    "I live on Big Creek. There's no algae," he said, adding that he drove near the creek's confluence with the Buffalo River recently.

    "There's no algae there, either."

    The farm owners care about the Buffalo River and work hard to ensure everything they do is done right, Wheeler said.

    "Do you think they want to take and destroy something they are proud of?" he asked. "I've never seen a hog farm that had to go through so many tests, so much scrutiny."

    David Peterson, president of the Ozark Society, said pollution can't be blamed on human visitors to the river, who mostly don't even float. The volume of human waste doesn't compare with the volume of animal waste in the river's watershed, he said.

    "On any given day, the farm animals in Newton County outweigh floaters 400 to 1," he said.

    The algae on the Buffalo has gotten worse, some commenters said. One woman said tourists asked her while they were floating when they'd get past all of the algae. She told them, "'Didn't you see the takeout? That's when you get out of the algae.'"

    The department will hold a second public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Jasper School Cafetorium, which is closer to the Newton County farm.

    State Desk on 10/10/2018

    Print Headline: Sides at hog-farm hearing claim backing of science

  • 30 Sep 2018 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    Residents weigh in on state environmental regulators' waters proposal

    Status of Buffalo a main concern

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: September 30, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
    Updated: September 30, 2018 at 3:49 a.m.

    State environmental regulators' draft list of impaired-water bodies doesn't provide justification for not listing certain waters and won't protect certain waters from continued pollution, dozens of people wrote to regulators this month.

    Several others urged the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to remove some waters from the list, citing inadequate data and fears over the economic consequences of declaring those waters polluted.

    The bulk of the more than 460 public comments on the department's draft list concern the department's decision to list a portion of the Buffalo National River and a tributary, Big Creek, as impaired.

    In July, the department declared that a 14.3-mile stretch of the Buffalo River and a 15-mile stretch of Big Creek were impaired because of E. coli. Another 3.7-mile stretch of Big Creek, just before it enters the Buffalo, is listed as impaired because of a lack of dissolved oxygen.

    The portion of the Buffalo considered impaired runs above and below the confluence with Big Creek. The department said the source of impairment was unknown, but it stated in other documents this month that C&H Hog Farms, near Big Creek, is a possible source.

    The declarations are draft decisions. The department still must consider public comments, respond to each one and then make a final list. That list needs to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The lists are compiled every two years. Last summer the EPA approved for the first time Arkansas' lists dating back to 2010.

    The most commented-on point of contention was that the state's listing of the Buffalo River and Big Creek exempts the waters from requiring new mandatory pollution-reducing activities. Instead of listing the waters under Category 5, which would have required new plans for pollution-reducing activities, the department listed the waters under Category 4b, which requires pollution-control activities through existing initiatives.

    In this case, the department stated that the voluntary Buffalo River Watershed Management Plan and the non-regulatory Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee were sufficient for the 4b requirements, but many conservationists disagreed.

    "Aspirational goals or unimplemented future plans do not qualify," attorney Ross Noland wrote on behalf of himself and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

    A 2007 EPA examination of alternatives used by other states in Category 4b cases says that a water is Category 4b when a total maximum daily load study "is not needed because other pollution control requirements are expected to result in the attainment of an applicable water quality standard (WQS) in a reasonable period of time."

    A total maximum daily load study is what is created under Category 5 to examine potential pollution-reducing activities.

    A 2006 report from the EPA cited by some commenters outlines six elements for 4b listings, including a description of pollution control and a timeline on completing the elements. Commenters stated that the department's listing doesn't include a timeline for such controls.

    In the department's explanation of its 4b listing, officials stated that stakeholders and action committee partners were needed to successfully implement strategy and develop milestones for the Buffalo River.

    "ADEQ and [Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee] are committed to revising the strategy as necessary to achieve ultimate attainment of water-quality standards in the Buffalo River," the explanation reads.

    The department will respond to comments at a later date.

    Colene Gaston, an attorney for the Beaver Water District, also noted that three parts of Beaver Lake were listed in Category 4b without accompanying regulatory actions.

    The department also cited a watershed management plan in its listing of eight segments or tributaries of the Illinois River. Comments concerning the Illinois asked for regulatory requirements based off of a total maximum daily load study.

    John Bailey, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, had other comments about the listings for the Buffalo River and Big Creek.

    Big Creek should be broken into more segments, Bailey said, because of the concentration of E. coli exceedances farther upstream in the creek. The department should have used a geometric mean for measuring E. coli, and much of the data used were collected by opponents of C&H Hog Farms who know how to game the system to get worse test results, Bailey said. All data showing dissolved oxygen impairment was from 2013, Bailey said, and it's unclear if the department has done any monitoring since then.

    Others also criticized the source of some of the data, which the department has to vet to accept, and argued that reliable data do not actually show impairment.

    Two Newton County leaders urged the department not to list any streams in the county at all.

    "We are one of the poorest counties in the state and to hamper the ability of this counties [sic] citizens to make a living is going to further impoverish our county," wrote County Judge Warren Campbell, a relative of one of the C&H owners.

    County Assessor Janet Lager echoed Campbell.

    "Please consider the impact this would have on all farmers, property owners, cabin and kayak rentals, loggers, utilities, and county trash/maintenance departments," she wrote.

    Other county residents and outsiders urged a higher-priority listing in a plea to improve the river and recreation there.

    Alice Andrews, a frequent attendee of public meetings concerning C&H Hog Farms or the Buffalo River, called the department's listing a "Band-Aid" approach.

    "Volunteer effort translates to a long wait before, or if, any significant project is born. Simply put, it's unrealistic," she said.

    The listing is a way to avoid addressing C&H Hog Farms, wrote Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. The watershed management plan is not allowed to address regulated facilities such as C&H, he said.

    The decision, Watkins said, "absolved ADEQ of responsibility for directly addressing a known threat to our state's most treasured stream, relying instead on private citizens and non-profit organizations to shoulder the burden while placing C&H off limits. This is unacceptable."

    Dozens of comments also concerned Fourche Creek, a 20-mile-long waterway that cuts through Little Rock. The secluded creek is often loaded with trash from storm drains and dirt eroded from channelized portions of the creek.

    Conservation groups have touted its potential for recreation for years, and state and local governments have tried to promote the creek, designating it as the state's first Urban Water Trail last year.

    The department placed part of the creek on the list under Category 5, but commenters requested that priority for the creek within that category be raised from "low" to "high," given the level of pollution and the water's use as a recreational destination.

    At the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission's meeting Friday, Dan Scheiman, bird conservation director at Audubon Arkansas, said the higher-priority designation would help his organization apply for funding to do a watershed management plan, which once created would help the organization apply for more funding to clean up the creek.

    Several other comments stated that the department's list was insufficient because it did not list any waters as not meeting anti-degradation requirements.

    Under anti-degradation, extraordinary resource waters, such as the Buffalo River, are not to degrade at all. Under the Clean Water Act, states are supposed to implement plans for determining whether a proposed wastewater permit would contribute to nonpermissible degradation.

    Arkansas is one of only two states without an EPA-approved anti-degradation implementation plan.

    Many comments were related to the department's process for issuing the 303(d) list.

    Gaston asked that the department post its supporting data and other documents online.

    Ed Brocksmith, a founder of Save the Illinois River, also asked that the department explain why other tributaries were removed from previous lists.

    Several commenters noted that explanations for delistings were lacking.

    Others requested that the department draft the required integrated report for the public to examine during the comment period, as well.

    State Desk on 09/30/2018

  • 30 Sep 2018 9:16 AM | Anonymous

    MASTERSON ONLINE: One toxic ‘soup’

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: September 29, 2018 at 2:27 a.m.

    If veteran North Carolina environmental writer Elizabeth Ouzts wanted to know the latest developments on the C&H Hog Farms operation in our Buffalo National River watershed, I could help bring her up to speed.

    I’ve equally relied on her work to learn how the record-setting flooding from Hurricane Florence affected that state’s 2,100 similar large swine factories and 3,700 massive open-air waste lagoons.

    Judging from Ouzts’ recent account in Environmental Health News, it’s been a troubled history with North Carolina’s “broken factory farm system” that has grown increasingly serious with repeated floods and storms.

    In her article published Sept. 21, she wrote that Florence caused structural damage or flooded many hog waste pits, sending untold tons of toxic raw waste mixed with floodwaters into surrounding environments.

    The full face of the storm’s damage remains unseen, as waste from these factories (and other pollutants such as coal ash) continued to rise at that time in what swelled into the largest East Coast deluge ever recorded north of Florida.

    Previous calamities, she wrote, involved leakages and failures from those enormous lagoons of animal feces that are periodically reduced by spraying excess raw waste onto crop fields. It’s a practice that doesn’t work in hurricanes and tropical storms. (I’d add C&H’s unsuitable location here in our Buffalo watershed atop fractured karst terrain.)

    In a changing climate, large rain events are becoming more frequent and severe in North Carolina, she writes, “and clean-water advocates say it’s more urgent than ever to shut down waste pits in areas most likely to flood and to phase out the antiquated systems altogether.”

    Before Florence made landfall, she reports, nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance members observed various hog operations by plane. They reportedly witnessed seven owners illegally spraying waste onto fields that would soon be inundated by heavy rain.

    Her story says many state farmers with lagoons on the verge of overflowing faced a difficult choice between violating permits by spraying their contents on fields, thereby harming rivers and creeks in the longer term, or directly discharging waste from the pits.

    The group also noted problems that tracked with state regulators’ running tally of pit failures based on the factories’ reports. After two days, more than 100 pits had been affected by the storm. Matt Butler, program director at Sound Rivers, a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, told Ouzts that after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and now with Florence, the state keeps repeating the same mistakes.

    Ouzts writes that until this year the program to reform the old methods hadn’t received new funding in more than a decade, although some 60 factory hog farms are still in the 100-year floodplain. It was too early to tell at the time of her reporting just how many facilities were overflowing. Yet state officials, the pork industry, and environmental advocates agreed that investing more in the program should be a priority.

    Ouzts reports that most experts say focusing only on the so-called 100-year floodplain is a mistake since heavy rains are expected to become the new normal. For instance, she says, Florence was considered a 1,000-year-storm while Matthew, just two years ago, was considered a 500-year storm.

    This was even more reason advocates of water quality have long argued all hog factories should phase out the older open-air waste pit version and convert to more sustainable systems now used in other states and countries, her story says.

    Such solutions are easier said than done, Ouzts wrote, since that state’s Department of Environmental Quality is understaffed and underfunded by more than 40 percent since 2012. Regulators have faced pressure to protect the state’s largest industry.

    Imagine that, continually lobbied politicos more involved in appeasing financial supporters and mega-corporations than ensuring disease-free water for North Carolinians when both seem feasible.

    State agricultural officials initially estimated Florence claimed at least 5,500 hogs and 3.4 million poultry, most trapped in flooded barns, Ouzts writes, adding that Waterkeepers say “the real culprits are the giant corporate conglomerates that take no responsibility for the waste their hogs produce.”

    Crystal Coast Waterkeeper Larry Baldwin was quoted saying he felt bad for those who have invested their entire lives into growing hogs under the state’s system, and that it should be up to the corporate backers to determine how they might use some of their profits to find a better system. “We’re not even through hurricane season yet,” he told Ouzts.

    Ouzts said all new factory-scale farms with spray waste ponds (as with C&H here) have been banned in North Carolina for more than two decades, as factories slowly adapt to more sustainable methods. But the older, grandfathered factories continue to be re-permitted.

    With nine million hogs, North Carolina is a top national pork producer. The industry—primarily multinational corporations that contract with local farmers—is concentrated in North Carolina’s low-lying southeastern coastal plain, which is precisely where Florence crushed rainfall records.

    Odor and pathogens wafting from animal barns, waste pits, and spray fields can affect and sicken neighbors even in the best weather. That led three juries this year to award hundreds of millions in damages to plaintiffs in suits against Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, with more lawsuits reportedly in the pipeline.

    A recent Duke University study only reinforced such concerns, Ouzts writes, “citing low life expectancy in communities near confined animal feeding operations, even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors known to affect health and lifespan.”

    Such threats are amplified after heavy rains, Ouzts writes. “Fields saturated with rainwater can’t absorb nutrients from waste pits; excess nitrogen and [phosphorus] instead appear in rivers and streams, at worst causing algae blooms and fish kills.

    Manure pits can burst or overflow, sending sludge, microbes, and potentially antibiotic-resistant bacteria into floodwaters, heightening their risk to public health.”

    Ryke Longest, director of Duke University’s environmental law clinic, told Ouzts, “You’re releasing all of that and making this soup of eastern North Carolina.”

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

  • 27 Sep 2018 7:37 AM | Anonymous

    An environmental lesson from hurricane country

    I guess it doesn’t matter that South Carolina and North Carolina are drowning in pig after the hurricane roared through. We don’t live there, so why should we worry about it? It’s just another saga of money-grubbing pig crap lovers vs. the natural beauty pig crap despisers.

    We in Arkansas need to be aware of all the toxins that can be released in large amounts by flooding the environment, whether it be here or elsewhere. Water is the great conveyor. No one and nobody can escape the [pungent] smell or disease and destruction of these concentrated animal feeding operations.

    Does it matter that grillers want their Sunday ribs or workers want their Saturday bacon? Our river, the Buffalo, is worth us sacrificing a little bit until things change on the home front. Even my beloved ham has lost its appeal since this fiasco. Now, when I see pork in the grocery store, it sickens me.

    All of you who created this mess need to quit thinking of your pocketbooks. Do the right thing, no matter what. Learn from what is happening to two unfortunate states in the aftermath of ill-thought-out choices.

    Nothing is worth how you will be thought of, if more harm comes to the awe-inspiring, life sustaining Buffalo River.



  • 26 Sep 2018 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Eurekas Springs Independent

    ADEQ acknowledging impact of hogs on Buffalo

    Becky Gillette

    September 26, 2018

    Decreased water quality and algae blooms on the Buffalo National River this summer have caused concerns to opponents of a 6,503-head hog farm operated by C&H near Big Creek about six miles from where it flows into the Buffalo River. Leading the opposition is the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) formed after C&H received permits in 2012 with what opponents said was completely inadequate public notice.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) received thousands of comments opposing the hog farm being located in a karst region where fractures in the ground provide a route for surface contamination to spread to groundwater, wells, springs, streams and lakes. C&H farm became a hot spot for a number of environmental studies looking at impacts of waste from the farm.

    And now ADEQ has issued a draft decision to deny a no-discharge permit under the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act. ADEQ is soliciting public comments until Oct. 17 on the proposal to deny the permit. Comments can be sourced at www.adeq.state.ar.us.

    Gordon Watkins, president of the BRWA, said they are telling supporters that they are pleased that ADEQ, in its Statement of Basis for denying the C&H permit, has laid out an even stronger rationale than was presented in January, particularly when coupled with revisions to their responses to the previous public comments which bolster their Statement of Basis.

    “It appears that both the revisions and Statement of Basis are largely in response to comments from BRWA and others which pointed to non-compliance with regulatory guidance documents as well as the recent draft decision declaring Big Creek and adjacent segments of the Buffalo impaired for low dissolved oxygen and pathogens,” Watkins said. “We have long said that science should lead decision making in regards to the C&H permit and we have previously submitted evidence of environmental impact. Now ADEQ accepts clear scientific evidence of serious environmental impacts to these stream segments attributable to nutrient overloading within the past few years.”

    Watkins said by far the single largest source of the overloading in this area is C&H, which has spread more than 14 million gallons of raw swine waste on surrounding fields since 2013.

    “We fully support the denial and BRWA will be resubmitting its previous technical comments as well as new information which has come to light in recent months, including the draft Clean Water Act 303d report of impaired streams and information contained in expert reports and depositions made available during the permit appeals process,” Watkins said. “We are currently preparing our comments and will be posting a draft on our website (www.buffaloriveralliance.org) soon. Meanwhile, for those who wish to comment now, we encourage commenters to support ADEQ’s Statement of Basis and BRWA and other organization’s previous comments in support of denial.”

    Denial of the permit is opposed by the Arkansas Farm Bureau, which says the issue is about far more than C&H, and could led to restrictions on other farm operations in the state.

    “We just think when you let emotion make decisions instead of science you are setting a bad precedent,” said Steve Eddington, vice president of public relations, Arkansas Farm Bureau. “For example, there are an awful lot of farms in Arkansas that operate on karst topography, and they have been there for decades. There are in fact procedures on how to deal with farm operations on karst. An argument seems to be suddenly that because this farm is located on karst topography, it can’t operate. How or why is this farm any different from those other farms who have been operating in the karst for decades?”

    Eddington said he thinks if the proposed permit is denied causing the hog farm to close, that would be tragic.

    “Our argument all along has been to let science rule,” Eddington said. “You can cherry pick data all you want and say this means that. And that isn’t how science works. It is a very emotional thing and I understand that. I’ve floated the Buffalo since we moved to Arkansas when I was in the sixth grade. It appears the argument gets framed like you have to be either for the Buffalo River or for C&H. That is just a short sighted and narrow view of world, in my opinion. I think you can be for both.”

    C&H co-owner Jason Henson, in an interview with KOLR-10 television in Springfield, Mo., in January, denied the operation is harming the Buffalo River.

    “Unfortunately, people are looking over the science and listening to emotion,” Henson said in the interview. “I think it’s political because the science is there to prove that we’re not doing anything wrong.”

    In the permit denial, the ADEQ discusses the finding that parts of both Big Creek and the Buffalo River are impaired for the pathogen E. Coli and for dissolved oxygen. ADEQ concludes C&H may be contributing to those poor water quality indicators.

    “In addition to this proposed listing of Big Creek and the Buffalo National River as impaired water bodies, the Big Creek Research Extension Team has documented an increase in nitrate-N near the facility,” the ADEQ said in its Statement of Basis for denying the permit. “In the April 1 to June 30, 2018 Quarterly Report, BCRET presented data that documents a statistically significant increase of nitrate-N in the ephemeral stream and the house well since 2014. Increased nitrate-N in both the ephemeral stream and the house well suggests that these systems may be hydrologically connected to areas where farm activities take place.”

    ADEQ also said data supplied from C&H shows that soil phosphorus for all fields receiving sprayed hog waste exceed recommended levels.

    EPA says nutrient pollution caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the air and water is one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems. “Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy,” EPA said.

    Opponents of the hog operation have listed significant economic and environmental concerns. In January, USA Today listed the Buffalo River as the number one tourist attraction in Arkansas. A National Park Service report concludes the 1.5 million visitors to Buffalo National River in 2017 spent $62.6 million in communities near the park. The Park Service said that spending supported 911 jobs in the area.

    Written comments on the draft denial and requests for information regarding the draft denial may be submitted to ADEQ, Attn: C&H Draft Denial at 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR, 72118-5317, or by email at 

    Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us. There will also be a public hearing Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. at ADEQ, 5301 Northshore Drive in North Little Rock.

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