Buffalo River 


  • 22 Sep 2018 8:22 AM | Anonymous

    MASTERSON ONLINE: More Buffalo science

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: September 22, 2018 at 2:32 a.m.

    A highly respected aquatic biologist and water-quality hydrologist who spent his distinguished career studying Ozark streams for the U.S. Geological Survey, examined four years of data collected by the research team monitoring C&H Hog Farms.

    And, as with other geoscientists, he's concerned over what's been learned and reported.

    Jim Petersen is a cautious scientist who speaks carefully so as not to overstate or unintentionally mislead. In a report prepared for the Ozark Society, he arrived at a number of troublesome conclusions when it came to the effect C&H is having on the Buffalo River and Big Creek, a major tributary, where swine waste for some five years has regularly been spread on surrounding fields, as well as seeping into the fractured karst subsurface that permeates the river's watershed.

    Petersen's analysis of water-quality data collected by the tax-supported Big Creek Research and Extension Team, focused on base-flow conditions, which occur when the stream flow is dominated by input from groundwater. Unfortunately, the Big Creek team is not accurately monitoring storm flow conditions when most of the waste continuously generated by the 6,500 swine at C&H can be expected to enter Big Creek.

    The big picture appears as bleak as many geoscientists and others have expected since 2013. He said results from various team monitoring sites, including those intended to monitor leakage from two waste holding lagoons, as well as the application fields where raw waste is spread, indicate "the [factory hog farm] is having a negative effect on the water quality of Big Creek during base flow."

    In other words, Big Creek, which has been classified as "impaired" (meaning not meeting water-quality standards for low dissolved oxygen and pathogens) since Petersen completed his review, appears to be receiving enough waste to show negative effects. Big Creek flows six miles downstream from C&H to join the Buffalo, portions of which now also are deemed impaired beneath their confluence for hazardous pathogens within massive overgrowths of algae.

    Petersen's reports also states, "the frequency and seasonal persistence of dissolved oxygen concentrations of Big Creek at Carver that are often substantially below the state standard may be causing detrimental effects on aquatic species and fish and macroinvertebrate (aquatic insects, etc.) communities of Big Creek and the Buffalo River. The proximity to the Buffalo River and anti-degradation policy concerns are another immediate concern."

    And that, valued readers, was determined months ago.

    There was more to concern Petersen. He said increasing trends in some nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, and E. coli in samples from Big Creek's monitoring site 4 (ephemeral stream) indicate inputs of these constituents to Big Creek are increasing and potentially affecting water quality of Big Creek near the hog farm and downstream.

    "If concentrations are increasing in base flow samples it is likely that concentrations in storm water also are increasing--and concentrations are almost certainly higher in the storm water than in base flow."

    At the risk of becoming overladen with scientific jargon, I'll take a stab anyway. Petersen explained that comparing concentrations of total nitrogen and total phosphorus (present in animal waste) at the Big Creek team's monitoring site downstream of the factory with biological thresholds for nutrients (fertilizers) in other comparable Ozark streams indicates existing concentrations are approaching (in the case of total nitrogen), or exceeding (regarding phosphorus) levels that affect aquatic life such as algae, insects and fish.

    Petersen found increasing trends in concentrations of three nitrogen constituents in samples from the Big Creek team's House Well site indicate contamination of the shallow groundwater aquifer. The steadily increasing pattern observed for several parameters indicates a constant input to the local aquifer feeding the well. Results at BC7 (the downstream site) also indicate a strong correlation between increasing nitrate concentrations during low-flow periods characterized by increased groundwater discharge.

    The scientist expressed particular concern over the lack of adequate storm-flow monitoring data at C&H. And if he is finding these disturbing results when there is no heavy rainfall, what's happening both atop and beneath the surface to these waste products during storms and sustained downpours?

    Trenches the Big Creek team dug below the waste ponds to monitor leakage also drew Petersen's attention. "Water quality from a trench downslope from the two waste holding ponds indicates that the contents from both ponds are seeping into the downslope trench," he wrote. In other words, the waste ponds show leakage.

    I keep hearing those who defend this badly misplaced hog factory complaining that supporters of the Buffalo River are basically irrational environmentalists with no science to support their concerns. I've seen a lot of late. Plus we all know that's just a crude attempt to vaguely smear the justified concerns of Arkansans and others nationwide who don't want to see this treasure spoiled today and for coming generations.

    An abundance of science is readily available. Petersen is but one of many respected geoscientists who have taken a look at the data and determined there is considerable and mounting evidence the hog factory is increasingly affecting Big Creek as its next million gallons of raw waste is regularly spread across pastures around and along this stream.

    Time is now

    The official period has opened for the public to comment on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's wise decision to deny the hog factory a Regulation 5 permit. Mine is submitted. It took four minutes. I continue to urge every Arkansan who cares about saving our now impaired national river to speak out until Oct. 17 on the department website at tinyurl.com/natriver, or by email at Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us.

    Those preferring to send a letter can address to: Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Attn: C&H Draft Denial, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, 72118.

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

    Channel 5 News

    Algae Concerns On The Buffalo River Addressed In Meeting


    Fayetteville (KFSM) -- Some environmentalists worry that the Buffalo River could soon be taken over by algae. The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance held a meeting Thursday (Sept. 20) to discuss the concern about algae growth on the river.

    "It has gone from twenty miles of coverage which we thought was pretty high already, to seventy miles this year," said Martie Olesen with the Buffalo Watershed Alliance.

    Gordon Selckmann is an algae expert who has recently studied the Buffalo River. Selckmann said he has identified 2 types of algae growing on the Buffalo River. He says one type doesn't pose health concerns, but the other type could.

    Olesen said some people who have recently floated the river have reported minor health issues.

    "There have been skin rashes, fever. It's anecdotal, we don't have actual data on it but people have reported that to us," Olesen told 5NEWS.

    Selckmann said an increase of nutrients is often the cause for these specific algae buildups.

    "If you have a lot of animals in a small area and you have the right water to push those nutrients into the river you can see blooms from that."

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance said they have an idea of what is causing the miles of green, the C&H Hog Farm.

    The hog farm is on Big Creek, 6 miles from where it meets the Buffalo River.

    ''The problem it was placed in a karst location that is full of cracks that allow water, and whatever is in the water, on the fields to quickly transport into the creek and into the river,'' said Olesen.

    Monday (Sept. 17) state environmental regulators issued a public notice of a draft decision that would deny a permit for a large hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed.

    The public can write letters to state legislators with their thoughts about the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denying the operating permit to C&H Hog Farm.

    C&H Hog Farm is now operating under an expired permit and houses about 6500 hogs.

  • 21 Sep 2018 8:31 AM | Anonymous

    Desecration of river

    After reading your article on the front page of the Arkansas section Tuesday, "State notice on hog farm issued," I am confused. More information is needed. We, the ones who need to comment, need the email address, phone number and address of the meeting!

    I am very opposed to such a disgrace as this hog farm even within 100 miles of our beloved national river. Honestly, there is really not a place where the waste from 6,000 hogs will be safe.

    Good people of Arkansas, please speak out against even a slight desecration of the Buffalo River.


    Pine Bluff

  • 21 Sep 2018 7:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Read the full article on this recent peer-reviewed study by Duke University   in the North Carolina Medical Journal

    Mortality and Health Outcomes in North Carolina Communities Located in Close Proximity to Hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

    CONCLUSION North Carolina communities located near hog CAFOs had higher all-cause and infant mortality, mortality due to anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis, septicemia, and higher hospital admissions/ED visits of Low Birth Weight infants.
  • 18 Sep 2018 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    Shut down hog farm

    I would like to express my strong opposition to continued operation of the C&H CAFO adjacent to Big Creek. Several geologists and experts agree that nutrients from the hog waste of this operation will reach our beautiful Buffalo River through the karst geology of this region that allows drainage to pass through its porous makeup.

    We are blessed to live in a beautiful state with so many God-made wonders to behold. It is incumbent on our citizens to protect and preserve these wonders. All who love and enjoy this beautiful state please join me in asking the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to deny C&H's request for renewal of their permit to continue operation. Don't forget to let our governor know how you feel. Write letters to the editor, or mail letters to the Department of Environmental Quality at 5301 Lakeshore Drive, North Little Rock, 72118.



  • 18 Sep 2018 7:19 AM | Anonymous

    State notice on Arkansas hog farm issued

    Agency draft of permit denial opens public comment period

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: September 18, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

    Arkansas environmental regulators issued Monday their public notice of a draft decision to deny a new operating permit to a large hog farm in the Buffalo River's watershed.

    The draft notice -- issued after a judge determined a final decision on C&H Hog Farms had been issued prematurely -- opens a public comment period on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's decision that will end at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17. A public hearing will be held at department headquarters at 5 p.m. Oct. 9. 

    The department accepted public comments in 2017 on its draft decision to grant C&H the permit and took several months to go through more than 19,000 comments, respond to them and ultimately issue the final decision that denied it. A judge and the department's appellate body ruled later that the department needed to issue a draft decision to deny the permit.

    C&H is operating under an expired Regulation 6 general permit. That regulatory program itself also expired, which prompted the Newton County facility to apply for a Regulation 5 individual permit, which does not expire and is tailored to the facility's operation.

    In its statement of basis denying the permit, the Department of Environmental Quality determined that the hog farm's location on rocky, permeable karst terrain necessitated a geologic investigation to determine groundwater flow on the property and manure pond liner construction quality assurance, among other things.

    John Bailey, director of environmental and regulatory affairs at the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said other counties have more karst than Newton County, including heavily populated Washington County.

    "Are they not allowed to have permits now because of karst?" Bailey said.

    In January, the department's statement of basis totaled three pages. The statement issued Monday was three times as long, expanding on the department's initial argument and addressing new information on surrounding water quality.

    C&H Hog Farms sits on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where it meets the Buffalo River. It is permitted to house 6,503 hogs.

    The department discussed its recent findings that Big Creek and the Buffalo River are both impaired in parts for pathogens or dissolved oxygen. The pathogen tested is E. coli. C&H may be contributing to that impairment, the department wrote in the statement of basis.

    The Big Creek Research and Extension Team, formed in 2013 to assess Big Creek and C&H, has found elevated nitrate near the facility, the department wrote. That includes statistically significant increases of nitrate in the ephemeral stream and the house well since 2014. An ephemeral stream is a stream that flows only during and a little after rainfall.

    Bailey said Monday that he had not thoroughly studied issues on the ephemeral stream but said that the house well had previously been measured from a cistern instead. That cistern, which received water pumped from the well, also picked up wash from other farm facilities that led to high nitrates, Bailey said. Measurements from the actual well in recent months have not showed elevated nitrate levels, he said.

    Bailey also has argued that most of the high-E. coli tests came from upstream of Big Creek. Opponents of C&H have contended, as well, that groundwater can travel in under karst terrain, and contaminated water can originate farther down a stream than where it may later be found.

    Opponents of C&H have said they plan to resubmit their comments and more.

    "There is a possibility they could change that decision as they have before," attorney Richard Mays said. "Very few people anticipated that they would deny the granting of the permit as they did back in January of this year."

    Mays has represented the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club as intervenors in C&H's appeal of its permit denial.

    Both dockets have closed at the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, which denied one and dismissed the other as moot when they ordered the permit denial be a draft decision.

    C&H filed notices of appeal in its two cases in Newton County Circuit Court earlier this month. On Sept. 7, the day the notice was filed in the Regulation 5 case, C&H requested that the judge grant a stay of the commission's order pending appeal. It was unclear Monday whether documents filed with the notice of appeal intended to constitute the actual appeal.

    Bailey said he was surprised the department went ahead with its draft permit denial without waiting for a judge to decide on the stay. If the stay were granted, he said, what would that mean for any public comments submitted?

    A department spokesman said Monday that officials were aware of the appeal but noted that the department was not a party to it.

    Mays said his groups would support the department's draft denial of the permit. Comments from the alliance referred to required guidance documents later used by the department to argue in part what the alliance had -- that the permit application was insufficient in its study of its location and providing an emergency action plan.

    "I know there's going to be a major effort on the part of C&H and others to overturn it," Mays said. "Everything that happens in it is going to be highly controversial."

    Metro on 09/18/2018

  • 17 Sep 2018 9:45 AM | Anonymous

    Reputation is sullied

    The hog farm at Mount Judea has not only damaged the Buffalo River, it has injured the reputation of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. I can't think of another state agency held in such low regard.

    To the folks who work at the department, I ask this question: Do you think the Farm Bureau cares?


    Fort Smith

  • 17 Sep 2018 9:34 AM | Anonymous

    Tracking science

    Contamination source obvious

    By David Peterson Special to the Democrat-Gazette

    Posted: September 17, 2018 at 2:44 a.m.

    Jack Boles, president of the Newton County Farm Bureau, has questioned a column by Mike Masterson which quotes from the Big Creek Research and Extension Team's recent report of monitoring of C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed.

    Since the Arkansas Farm Bureau is funding C&H's legal fight to keep its operation alive, one can hardly expect objectivity from Mr. Boles. But in this case, Mr. Boles is proving a larger point.

    It is undisputed that excess nutrients in the Buffalo River create algae blooms, which in turn cause water quality degradation. Farming activities (hogs, chicken and cattle), the attendant conversion of forest to pasture, and the resulting animal wastes are the primary cause of the decline in water quality in the Buffalo River. Mr. Boles and his organization appear to be just fine with this.

    But let's look more closely at the point Mr. Boles tries to make. He claims that the Big Creek team's monitoring Field 5a is not receiving wastes from C&H and thus Mr. Masterson's statement that C&H's waste is leaving Field 5a is "cherry-picking" the facts.

    What Mr. Boles fails to inform your readers is that the Field 5a catchment area receives agriculture runoff from a much larger area. In fact, it drains an adjoining field and portions of an adjoining farm operation. The Big Creek report Mr. Masterson references states that in 2015, losses in surface runoff from Field 5a were 4.46 pounds of phosphorus and 6.97 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Although we know that these figures are overstated as the Big Creek team underestimates the acreage that is contributing to Field 5a, this plainly shows that agricultural activities along Big Creek contribute nutrients to the adjacent Big Creek and the Buffalo River.

    Tellingly, Mr. Boles fails to challenge Mr. Masterson's article noting the team's results from Field 12, which has received over a quarter-million gallons of waste from C&H since 2014. The Big Creek team reports that in 2015, that field lost 45.9 percent of the phosphorus applied and 24.8 percent of nitrogen applied.

    Mr. Boles probably doesn't mention this field because these results clearly show swine waste from C&H entering Big Creek and the Buffalo River.

    C&H continues, year after year, to apply phosphorus far in excess of its rotational grazing needs. The 2017 annual report by C&H shows soil concentrations of phosphorus above optimal for all spread fields. For instance, Field 1 had 190 pounds of phosphate per acre in the soil, plenty for the typical one cow per acre raised in Newton County (23 pounds phosphate/cow). But C&H applied 232 pounds/acre, 10 times the need. Where does the excess go if not ultimately into the creeks?

    In the short 2½-mile stretch of Big Creek adjacent to C&H, the mean nitrate level and flow-weighted mean phosphorus level increases by about 125 percent, according to data from the Big Creek team and U.S. Geological Survey. Maybe it's the school at Mount Judea or the several hundred people in White Township creating the mess, not the million pound hog farm.

    No real, rational farmer buys and applies excess fertilizer unless his business is nutrient-dumping--socializing business expenses by making the public pay for the burden of waste disposal in the waterways. And now Big Creek and the Buffalo River are declared impaired by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

    So while Mr. Boles attempts to defend C&H by blaming a neighboring farm for the pollution coming from the area designated as Field 5a, he will have a more difficult time blaming the cause of Big Creek's impairment on something other than agriculture sources, of which C&H is by far the largest in the entire Buffalo River watershed.

    Manure can be a useful agricultural byproduct, but its application doesn't have to be a menace to our waterways. The Farm Bureau can do better by encouraging farmers to stop phosphorus dumping and by better utilization of nitrogen.


    Dr. David Peterson is a

  • 17 Sep 2018 8:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    State recommends denial of new permit for C and H Hog Farm

    Posted By Max Brantley on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 9:53 AM

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has recommended denial of a new permit for discharge of waste by the C and H Hog Farm in Newton County.

    Reasons cited include the underlying karst geology, which can allow waste to migrate and contaminate groundwater. Karst requires special design considerations for containing waste, the department said. It also said that the existing operation may be contributing through application of waste on fields to impaired quality of Big Creek and the Buffalo River.

    The decision is by the Office of Water Quality for a permit for storage and land application of liquid waste. It will be open for public comment for 30 days. A public hearing will be held Oct. 9.

    Here's the basis for the recommended denial of the permit.

    Here's the order.

    After the comment period, the decision will be up to the director of the department, Becky Keogh. Her decision could be appealed to the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission,  which is polluter-friendly. But in this case it will face some of the strongest scientific findings yet on the danger to the Buffalo River watershed of pumping out 3 million gallons of hog waste every year. The farm feeds about 3,000 hogs.

    The hog farm slid into operation out of public view by applying initially for a general discharge permit that doesn't require a public hearing process. Once approved, it began the application for what's known as a regulation five permit, which is the type denied today.

    The Pollution Control Commission has ruled that the earlier permit will die if the regulation 5 permit is denied. C and H, backed by Arkansas Farm Bureau, is fighting this in circuit court. Buffalo River preservation groups are attempting to intervene.

    The Buffalo River groups, such as the Buffalo River Alliance and Ozark Society, say the science shows the hog farm is the biggest single source of nutrients contributing to pollution in the Buffalo River, bigger than any town in the watershed. The hog farm tries to blame the pollution on canoers, but the nutrient load is coming from tributaries into which runoff from C and H and other agricultural operations run.  Hog waste runs downhill, the opponents say.                     
  • 16 Sep 2018 9:55 AM | Anonymous

    Case for prosecution

    In his presentation for the defense, retired Cajun lawyer Edward Chevallier has said that the hog farm waste is but a drop in the river compared to the rest of the animals that live in the drainage area. I wish to present a set of facts that will show his data for the defense may be true but skewed.

    First a few facts, sir. The Buffalo River drainage has an area of over 350,000 acres. C&H Hog Farms occupies only 23 of these acres, or roughly 0.007 percent of the drainage area.

    On these few acres sit approximately 6,500 hogs filling two ponds with excrement for later distribution over fields, some in the same drainage area. But those two ponds, full most days, are the waste equivalent of a city of 15,000 humans.

    Imagine a town of 15,000 people sitting just 6 miles off the river without a sewage treatment plant. Did you know that there are about 15,000 people total in Newton and Searcy counties combined? The population of both counties crammed onto 23 acres. You don't see a problem yet?

    I wish to present to the jury the fact that all this concentrated doo-doo is sitting on rock that is full of holes, passages, caves and pristine underground water. A formation called karst. One good leak of these ponds and the contents head to more places than just down Big Creek. Underground water would also be affected. Hogs also carry pathogens that humans react to as well.

    So now you know why we are not concerned with millions of critters doing what they do in the woods harming the river. We are worried about this load of concentrated excrement hanging over the playground for millions of people.

    As far as buying up the farm and shutting it down? They won't sell. The prosecution will never rest, your honor.


    Little Rock

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