Buffalo River 


  • 08 Jun 2013 11:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    County With Controversial Hog Farm Tells Fayetteville To Butt Out

    Posted on: 9:25 pm, June 7, 2013, by Austin Reed and Shain Bergan

    Newton County officials passed a resolution earlier this week asking Fayetteville leaders not to interfere in a hog farm in the county that detractors say may be harmful to the environment and the Buffalo River.
    The Newton County Quorum Court drafted and passed a measure June 3 that “opposes the interference in the livelihood of these families by the City of Fayetteville and other entities,” the resolution states.
    Fayetteville city councilmember Adella Gray shot back at Newton County officials Friday, saying that while she understands their need for autonomy, the possible pollution of the Buffalo River reaches farther than the confines of Newton County.
    The issue started in April, when the Fayetteville City Council unanimously passed a non-legally-binding resolution opposing a hog farm aldermen said could pollute the Buffalo River. Although the farm is a few counties away, Fayetteville’s resolution claimed the 6,500-head hog factory farm near Harrison could poison the river and hurt Northwest Arkansas tourism revenue.

    See 5NEWS reporter Austin Reed’s story above to hear what Newton County officials and Gray had to say Friday about the newest development in the issue.

    Fayetteville’s resolution opposing the hog farm brought out local protests against the farm, along with area farmers who, on the other side, believe the government already places too many restrictions on family farms.
    The hog farm’s owner even held an event to allow the public to tour his farm, to see his pollution safeguards.
    Members of the public on both sides of the issue spoke up during the public comment section Fayetteville’s council meeting on the matter in April. Helen Mitchell, a local realtor, said the possibility of pollution and water contamination is obvious and hog farms have decimated the environment of other areas outside of the state.
    Alderman Sarah Marsh and Mayor Lioneld Jordan, the resolution’s co-sponsors, said they have heard from several citizens on the matter and realize it is important to them that the council do whatever it can to keep pollutants from hurting the Fayetteville area.
    Beau Bishop with the Arkansas Farm Bureau told the council pollution is not likely, adding that the eighth-generation family heading the hog farm operation has taken out $4 million in loans to start the farm.
    “This is their livelihood,” Bishop said. “All they’re guilty of is following the letter of the law.”
    Alderman Justin Tennant told his fellow council members he did not feel right voting against the hog farm when so many farmers are already struggling to make a living because of increased regulations, but then cast his vote for the resolution opposing the farm.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency found the hog farm would have no significant impact on the local environment and the river, a claim the City Council’s resolution calls “hard to imagine”.
    The resolution, drafted by Fayetteville city attorney Kit Williams, states hog droppings have the ability to pollute the river and keep people from canoeing or hiking along the river locally.
    “Hog excrement…smells very much worse than chicken or cow manure,” the resolution states. The state of Arkansas “would never allow a city of 6,500 people to just use lagoons that can easily overflow after a storm and flow into the nearby creek to store and ‘treat’ human waste.”
    Bishop refuted the resolution, saying hog excrement does not have the same ill effects human excrement can have on the health of those nearby.
  • 08 Jun 2013 11:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Animal Waste Threatens America’s First National River, Public Health, and Arkansas Tourism

    Published on Friday, 07 June 2013 15:28 

    Written by Press Release

    Groups seek review of assessment that led to federal loan guarantee for industrial swine facility in the Buffalo National River Watershed

    Mount Judea, AR--(ENEWSPF)--June 7, 2013. A coalition of conservation and citizen groups sent a letter of demand yesterday requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) take action to ensure that the authorization of loan guarantee assistance to C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea, Arkansas complies with the law. C&H is an industrial hog factoryundefinedunder contract with Cargill, an international producer and marketer of agricultural productsundefinedthat will have 6,500 swine when fully operational and is located on the banks of the Big Creek tributary that flows directly into the Buffalo National River. The groups assert that the loan guarantee to the hog facility hinges on a flawed environmental review process that violates the law and does not follow USDA’s own regulations.

    The letter is intended to notify USDA and SBA that unless acceptable solutions are implemented by July 8, 2013, the groups will be forced to seek compliance with the law in court.

    “We are compelled to move forward in our efforts to prevent this hog factory farm from proceeding without a thorough examination of the consequences,” said Emily Jones, Senior Program Manager, Southeast Region at National Parks Conservation Association. “The Buffalo River is the crown jewel of Arkansas’ natural beauty and our country’s first national river. We must protect it from the waste and pollutants spewed from an atrociously misplaced industrial facility.”

    The 150-mile Buffalo River flows through the heart of the Ozarks in northwestern Arkansas and runs through rapids and quiet pools surrounded by massive multi-colored cliffs rising nearly 700 feet above the riverbed. The river’s watershed includes 700 species of trees and plants and provides habitat for 250 species of birds and a variety of wildlife. More than one million people visit the Buffalo National River each year to canoe, float the river, swim, hike, and camp in a spectacular and unspoiled setting, generating $38 million in local economic benefit for the region.

    Among multiple errors and omissions, FSA’s environmental assessment incorrectly defines the acreage of the C&H facility, does not take into account nearby sensitive areas such as the Mount Judea Elementary School, and ignores the consequences of liquid manure running through the porous karst geology of the Buffalo River region.

    In addition, the notice of FSA’s environmental assessment was never published in a local newspaper in the vicinity of Mount Judea, Arkansas and no public comments were received. The National Park Service (NPS) was not informed of FSA’s environmental review until February 2013 – two months after some $3.5 million in loans were already guaranteed by FSA and SBA to the C&H operation. In fact, in a subsequent letter to FSA, the Park Service proceeded to identify 45 problems with the environmental assessment and stated that it was “so woefully inadequate that it should immediately be rescinded.”

    “It is incredible that no one, most especially those of us who live in the Buffalo River watershed, was notified about an industrial-sized hog farm so close to the river until after C&H was guaranteed millions by the FSA and SBA,” said Jack Stewart, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. “Considering the magnitude of the hog operation and the impacts to our health and the health of the Buffalo River, thousands of Arkansans would have fought the placement of this factory farm from the outset.”

    “Due to the tragic lack of appropriate public notice, I learned of the granting of a loan to C&H Hog Farms with the loan guarantee by FSA and SBA several months after the fact,” said Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society. “I then read the EA in detail. In my many years in industry and academia I have never seen such irresponsibility and negligence in carrying out a task having so much importance to the primary stakeholdersundefinedthe American public. Although 600 pages long, it is all virtually meaningless and obviously prepared with the thought that there would be no review. I do have faith in the American justice system in that FSA and SBA will be called to account as a step to stopping the hog farm in the fragile ecosystem of the Buffalo National River.”

    A particularly glaring flaw in the environmental assessment is the hog facility’s Nutrient Management Plan (NMP), which contains significant errors, omissions and misrepresentations. C&H will dump additional phosphorus-laden hog waste onto fields that already have all, or more than, the phosphorus they need. Accordingly, if the hog facility proceeds, significant amounts of phosphorus will be available for runoff into groundwater, Big Creek and downstream to the Buffalo River, causing nuisance algae and significantly altering the ecology of the stream system. With this facility sitting atop extremely porous ground, the risk for contamination of the Buffalo River is exceptionally high, and this risk is at odds with the protections required for a national park.

    Despite the numerous problems overlooked in the environmental assessment’s NMP, in the absence of any public opposition a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) was signed by the FSA on August 24, 2012. In December 2012, the FSA authorized loan guarantee assistance requested by Farm Credit Service of Western Arkansas on behalf of C&H for 90 percent of a $1,302,000 farm ownership loan. SBA guaranteed a separate farm ownership loan issued by Farm Credit to C&H in the amount of $2,318,136.

    “We believe that FSA and SBA violated both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Buffalo National River Enabling Act with their loan guarantees to C&H,” said Marianne Engelman Lado, an attorney with Earthjustice, a public interest law firm representing the groups. “FSA also egregiously violated their own regulations requiring local public notice and proceeded through its entire environmental review and decision-making process with absolutely zero public input.”

    In sum, Emily Jones at National Parks Conservation Association said, “The complete lack of public input to date, the inadequacy of the environmental review, and the severity of the potential environmental impact to Arkansas’ signature outdoor tourist attraction, make it imperative for the USDA to take corrective action and revise the environmental assessment and the decision to issue a loan guarantee to C&H Hog Farms.”

    Earthjustice, Earthrise and local attorney Hank Bates are representing the Arkansas Canoe Club, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, and The Ozark Society in sending the letter to the USDA and SBA.


    Source: earthjustice.org

  • 06 Jun 2013 3:50 PM | Anonymous
    BRWA and its coalition partners issued a demand letter to FSA and SBA. The letter is intended to notify USDA and SBA that unless acceptable solutions are implemented by July 8, 2013, the groups will be forced to seek compliance with the law in court.  

  • 05 Jun 2013 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Harrison Daily Times

    Geologist wants hog farm suspended, writes letter to ADEQ

    Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 2:30 am
    Staff Report dailytimes@harrisondaily.com | 0 comments

    A group opposed to C & H Hog Farms at Mt. Judea has shared a letter from an Arkansas scientist to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality calling for the farm’s permit to be suspended until his concerns are investigated.

    A spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association said the scientist’s concerns are aligned with the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club and the Ozark Society over the lack of study of groundwater on and near the site; the lack of discussion of the karst hydrogeology present in the region; and the lack of public notice provided, along with various other issues.
    The spokesman was referencing a letter by University of Arkansas professor John Van Brahana, a hydrologist and Certified Professional Geologist
    His letter to the ADEQ states: “Although many of the regulations of the NOI appear to have been met (exceptions include the letter from Hank Bates of Carney Bates & Pulliam PLLC), the heart of the regulations undefined the questions of nutrient loading and waste leakage undefined are weak and incomplete and do not give confidence that the NOI plans are adequate for preserving environmental quality. My personal perception is that this document does not satisfy the requirements.
    “Coupled with what was perceived as an air of secrecy and a less-than-obvious need for rapid or immediate action, the response of ADEQ in dealing with this project has reinforced the overall feeling that the proposed C & H Hog Farms is a highly risky water-quality endeavor in a fragile, lovely location. Subsequent actions have done little to alleviate those fears. Without addressing these omissions, I, too, have serious reservations.”
    Brahana notes that the hog farm is located in an area of karst geologic conditions.
    The National Parks Conservation Association spokesman said Brahana plans to propose a research program to assess the water quality of the region, conduct dye-tracing studies to document the point-to-point connections; and map all known karst features from upstream of the farm, down the valley of Big Creek, and below the confluence with Buffalo National River.
    He also called for a more transparent and open process about permitting operations for projects similar to the factory hog farm.
    Little Rock attorney Hank Bates sent a letter in May to ADEQ director Teresa Marks challenging the factory farm’s permit based upon the Nutrient Management Plan.
    Earlier in May, the National Parks Conservation Association, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club and The Ozark Society filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its multi-million dollar loan guarantee to the factory farm, as their actions may have violated the Endangered Species Act.
  • 04 Jun 2013 9:15 AM | Anonymous
    Karst Hydrologist John Van Brahana requests suspension of the C&H Hog Farm permit stating no experienced Karst geologist would recommend a CAFO on this site. Document
  • 04 Jun 2013 6:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
     Subject: Arkansas Democrat June 1 letters re C & H Hog Farm

    Letter #1) We could all benefit
    The hog farm near the Buffalo River has opponents and proponents. Perhaps each side can win. We can have our bacon, ribs, etc., and another products from hogs along with a clean Buffalo River.

    I suggest drying the manure, bagging it, selling it nationwide, or worldwide, as fertilizer and potting soil. And believe me, this could be done at a nice profit.

    Cargill and the producers have enough financial backing to support such an operation. And perhaps some small company such as Wal-Mart would make a great distributor.

    Seriously, problem solved? For everybody?




    Letter #2) Some changes needed
    Does Arkansas need an agency to protect our environmental quality? I had thought that was the job of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. But how then did we get a permitted 6,500-swine farm, built on the most porous rock terrain in the state (the Boone Limestone), where sewage will be stored in open lagoons until it can be spread on fields less than a mile upwind of a school, and where runoff and seepage through the porous rock may pollute wells, endangered bat caves, and even the country’s first national river.

    The department says the C&H farmers followed the proper application procedure for their permit. Therefore, without local public notification, comment period or public input, a permit was granted. And this is in accordance with the department’s own statewide rules for permitting contained animal feeding operations.

    How did these rules evolve? Has there been pressure from outside the agency? Could the Department of Environmental Quality have allowed giant agribusiness to foist these rules on them? Has it lost its power to protect our natural resources and human habitat?

    Statewide permitting without local input is bound to meet the unexpected-karst topography, endangered species, an adjacent school, or even a national river. Arkansas’ natural resources and human habitat need better protection. Arkansas needs a change in laws, a better permitting system, and an agency with the power and courage to protect our resources and the quality of our environment.



    Note- "Pamela" is better known to most of us as "Pam" Stewart and is married to Jack Stewart


    Letter #3) Do something, stop it
    See the Buffalo River hog farmer with his hand on the sow in the pipe-framed enclosure? That is not a chute and she is not on her way to somewhere else.

    That is a containment crate and she is going to live almost all her life in it (four or five years). She cannot turn around or even really lie down. She will never see the sun or wallow in mud or even walk on green grass.

    These are not pork production units. These are God’s creatures.

    For the love of God, good people, do something to stop this!


  • 02 Jun 2013 3:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    ADEQ: CAFO Permit Is Just Fine

    Agency: Permit is fine

    Mike Masterson

    In his recent letter to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks, Little Rock attorney Hank Bates claimed the nutrient management plan for C&H Hog Farms of Mount Judea revealed the crucial document contained “omissions, errors and misrepresentations” that warranted revocation of the farm’s operating permit.
    I’d say Marks’ response (which declined to revoke the permit) contained a surprising number of its own “omissions, errors and misrepresentations.” Bates says Marks didn’t adequately address the specific issues he’d raised, specifically about phosphorus contamination from mountains of hog waste and previous flooding of some application fields.
    Their exchange in the resulting news account by reporter Ryan Mc-Geeney was too lengthy to tackle in fewer than 1,000 words.
    Bates summarized the response as nonresponsive. “For the most part, their letter doesn’t say anything, refutes nothing, ignores many of the issues we raised, and obliquely references others. For example, despite the regulations and prior public statements, it appears ADEQ really doesn’t care whether the permit applicant uses phosphorus or nitrogen in the analysis. ADEQ also misses the fundamental pointundefinedthe four fields with ‘N/A’ spread across the calculation tables are the fields where the analysis improperly switched from phosphorus to nitrogen.”
    He added that the agency’s response “inspires little to no confidence that the agency will be enforcing the permit and protecting the Buffalo River as this factory farm ramps up operations … ADEQ feels it has no requirement to follow any guideline and is asserting their own guidelines and Arkansas law means nothing.”
    I can understand Bates’ frustrations, especially considering that Marks has acknowledged she didn’t realize her own department had approved the operating permit for this farm until after it had been done by lower-level staff.
    After reading of Marks’ response and refusal to revoke the permit, I was left with several impressions: It seemed from the wording and admitted errors contained in the permitting process, this was perhaps the first time they’d carefully reviewed that document. Secondly, there appears to be an inexplicable disconnect in the agency differentiating between phosphorus and nitrogen applications. Why?
    Thirdly, my impression of Marks’ response could be boiled down to: We don’t give a thin slice of crispy bacon what the thousands concerned about potentially polluting the Buffalo National River say about how we handled or mishandled the hog contained animal feeding operation permit. Our responsibility is a done deal where we are concerned. All you taxpaying, voting citizens can learn to live with the conscientious job we are doing to protect the environmental quality of the natural state.
    Were I Marks, after so many exposed shortcomings within her department, I’d already have resigned and probably found a job in the legal department of corporate agriculture. But, hey, that’s just me.
    Many can’t believe this could even happen, and with the permission of our state. A family hog farm with a few hundred swine is one thing. But 2,500 sows and 4,000 offspring is like comparing a lizard to a brontosaurus with an entirely new level of potentially devastating risks to a magnificent state treasure.
    So my curiosity naturally was roused by both the state and federal governments’ roles in approving this monumentally bad idea without a single public hearing held in Jasper, the Newton County seat, or nearby Harrison (where the Farm Service Agency and National Park Service offices share the same building). Why not? After all, this farm was being proposed in the backyard of those most immediately affected.
    Now, instead of emerging from such meetings when the farm was proposed, public debate is occurring weeks after the first hogs from supporter Cargill Inc. arrived. The relative silence from the system certainly worked out to more than effectively paving the way for this particular farm.
    As a consequence, our state’s permit approval, and even a loan guaranteed by taxpayers through the Farm Service Agency, has understandably roused thousands in Arkansas and across the nation.
    I was born in Harrison, several miles from the Buffalo National River. I grew up enjoying its striking beauty. And as much as my concern is that this magnificent gift not be put needlessly at risk for contamination from leaking or overflowing hog waste, I’ve become equally interested in how our governments came to award such kindly approval to this farm seemingly from its conception.
    It has felt as if state and federal agencies, rather than serving as true gatekeepers of our state’s precious treasure, turned cartwheels to make sure this CAFO was approved right where it is.
    And I naturally wonder why Cargill, the international food supplier and processor, would risk good will and reputation over what’s bound to be just another of its many hog CAFOs. Aren’t there plenty of other better-suited areas even in Arkansas where this many hogs can be raised without raising fears over the God-awful hog waste contaminations that other states have suffered?
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.

  • 26 May 2013 5:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Grassy greeting

    Weeding out dissent

    Mike Masterson

    Scores of visiting demonstrators were welcomed to the town of Jasper last week by constant noise and debris tossed from a weed-trimmer and lawnmower after they’d peacefully convened on the grassy Newton County courthouse square. They’d come to make their voices heard as international corporation Cargill Inc. entertained legislators with a lunch across the street at the popular Ozark Cafe.
    The startled visitors, who shielded their faces from the flying refuse, had come from as far away as Missouri to display signs and chant. They opposed Cargill’s backing of C&H Hog Farms in the nearby community of Mount Judea and the risk that industrial farm poses to the purity of the Buffalo National River.
    A half-dozen uniformed county deputies watched from across the street as this gathering of middle-aged folks peaceably milled on the side of the courthouse where two county workers suddenly showed up at noon to repeatedly mow the same relatively small area over the entire lunch hour.
    It appeared to me that both workers clearly had been instructed to do what they were doing and to summon the police if anyone dared object, which is just what the 6-foot-five, 300-pound weed-trimming employee did as soon as a man asked if he’d please consider doing his work there later. His retort: “You’re interfering with my work!” Then he called the deputies across the street on his cell phone.
    Good grief. Really?
    When deputies strolled over, the officers wound up shaking their heads and soon returned to the cafe. It was obvious that no county worker had been threatened or even interfered with.
    Meanwhile, the remaining three sides of the grassy square went unmown during the length of the demonstration.
    It was plenty apparent to those who’d come to express their feelings about Cargill’s role in the factory hog farm and the corporation’s hosted lunch for lawmakers that this display of noise and potentially dangerous flying sticks was calculated. I wonder who’d have been liable had someone lost an eye.
    While hungry lawmakers filed in and out for the Cargill’s lunch, I was surprised to learn not one walked across the street to speak with those in the crowd.
    Oh well, hey, it was a ham sandwich or a pork chop on Cargill, a float on the nearby pristine Buffalo and a tour of the new hog farm that didn’t yet stink to high heaven since it’s only been operational for a short time.
    I suggest holding another lawmakers’ tour and smell check in August 2014 after millions of gallons of waste are lapping in two lagoons and more waste has been amply spread across the fields surrounding Mount Judea and Big Creek.
    Those attending the protest carried signs that read: “Cargill Shame on You,” “Cargill Go Home” and “Hog farms Yes. Hog factories No.” Among the videotaped crowd was a prominent Newton County family concerned about polluting the river. Afterwards, the wife described her perspective.
    “I was part of the protest in Jasper in front of the Ozark Cafe while Cargill fed the state’s House and Senate Agriculture Committee members. We surely needed to let Cargill and others see some of the concern for the Buffalo National River. Many came early … and held very creative signs,” she said. “At one point I believe there were over 70. It felt good to get to be among others and chant … as [Cargill’s] guests filed into the cafe. We stood directly across the street in front of the Newton County Courthouse.
    “At 12 o’clock sharp, mowing and weed-eating was going on all around us. [My husband] went inside the courthouse to speak to the County Judge [Warren Campbell] about postponing yard work until later and expected to get to do so by phone, but the woman he talked with seemed to just disappear. The yard workers insisted their mowing needed to be done at this time!
    “One informed us he was a county employee and we could be guilty of obstructing their work,” she continued. “There was some risk for the bystanders who cooperated by moving. The mowers were old and didn’t have protective shrouds. No one was injured, though my son did feel something hit the side of his face from the weed-eater.
    “The worker who was weed-eating explained how they had to mow at that time because it was for the holiday [six days later] for the veterans and the flag and also it was shady on that side of the courthouse. Then he wanted to explain how safe CAFOs are and how Mount Judea is fine. He explained how he prefers to eat a CAFO pig instead of an outside pig who wallers about in everything. Those swine are just not clean in his opinion. He thinks the real problem is that some bathrooms are closed at the national park.”
    She concluded: “It’s disheartening when a local disdains this outpouring of concern and continues saying this [factory hog farm] won’t hurt the river. It’s obvious this CAFO is in the wrong place.”
    And as further evidence of just how divisive this CAFO near the Buffalo has become in Newton County, one former official at the demonstration told me that, as he was leaving, a local business person leaned over to him and said: “Thank you all for coming.”
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 25 May 2013 6:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Geoscientist: CAFO a no-no

    Mike Masterson

    If you were responsible for permitting an industrial hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed along Big Creek, would you ask an expert to analyze what kind of drainage to expect from tons of swine waste applied atop the porous limestone of what geologists know as the Boone Formation?
    And what if you didn’t do that and later were told the estimated odds of such contamination was 90 percent?
    It seems like just prudent due diligence that any state would consult with an expert on groundwater circulation through the karst of the Boone Formation in Newton County before issuing a permit for a concentrated animal feeding operation in such an environmentally sensitive area.
    So I wondered why the state’s Department of Environmental Quality didn’t retain someone like professor John V. “Van” Brahana of the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas, who I’m told does have a phone. Brahana is an expert on the fractured karst that underlies much of Northwest Arkansas. He’s more than capable of examining the site of this 630-acre operation at Mount Judea. After all, this place will house 6,500 swine continually generating at least two millions gallons of waste pumped into two lagoons and applied across fields near Big Creek.
    And certainly no responsible people would want misinformation spread about what can be expected from this farm’s waste output, especially alleged omissions and misinformation of the kind cited in both the Farm Service Agency’s environmental assessment report and the Department of Environmental Quality permit’s nutrient management plan. Right?
    But since the state didn’t recruit Brahana to prepare such a study, I asked his thoughts.
    Few, if any, geoscientists are more familiar with the distinctive Ozark karst that forms the Boone Formation and how easily and rapidly it carries groundwater pollution. He told me the formation, particularly beneath Newton County, is honeycombed with caves, sinkholes and underground springs.
    “Newton County has the single largest number of reported caves for any county in the state,” said Brahana, who had performed a cursory review of the C&H Hog Farms site. “The setting of this … hog farm overlies one of the most intensively karsified rock units in the state. … The concentration of animal wastes is huge and safely retaining them in the clay-line [lagoons] proposed is highly unlikely.”
    The professor said if waste should escape this farm, it would likely negatively affect the overall water quality of the Buffalo National River. “Identifying all the subsurface short-circuits that could deliver waste to the river is neither practical or economically feasible. The Buffalo is the major regional drain through which groundwater and tributary surface water (Big Creek) leaves the region and pollutants would ultimately end up in that waterway. Cleanup after the fact is much more expensive than avoiding the problem before it occurs,” he said.
    Formerly with the U.S. Geological Survey, Brahana has taught for 23 years at the University of Arkansas. The professor’s numerous studies include a dry creek bed along the Carroll-Boone County line where poultry waste had contaminated nearby wells and springs. A highway expansion had exposed underlying karst bedrock with interlayers of “horrible-smelling gooey sediment composed of decaying poultry debris and waste and a spring that was proven to be connected to the dry creek bed that was horribly contaminated,” he said. “In my 51 years of professional groundwater studies, I’ve never encountered a more contaminated spring anywhere.”
    The makeup of the karst hydrology along Big Creek adjacent to the hog farm is very similar, he added.
    The professor told of another instance along a tributary of Osage Creek where the weight of a pond formed by damming that stream caused it to collapse into a previously undetected cavern. From there the flow traveled subsurface along the stream valley and into Osage Creek. “Big Creek at the CAFO site has nearly identical hydrogeologic properties and settings,” he said, further explaining that various contaminants can travel through karst anywhere from feet to a matter of miles in a single day.
    I closed my exchange with Brahana by asking on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most likely (and knowing what he has learned of the Cargill-supported and supplied site for this industrial hog farm), what he believes are the odds of our nation’s first national river becoming contaminated from the waste the farm generates. “A nine on Big Creek and a nine on the Buffalo,” he responded. But of course, our state never asked this expert for a truly scientific opinion before issuing the permit.
    Meanwhile, it was interesting to see scores of folks gather Wednesday on the courthouse square in Jasper to protest the hog farm. In what struck me and lots of other Arkansans as a blatant public relations move to build support for the farm, corporate giant Cargill sponsored a lunch for some legislators at the popular Ozark Cafe, also on the Jasper square. Silly me, I wondered why Cargill wasn’t also kindly buying lunch for all those potential customers carrying signs across the street.
    • –––––undefined
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 24 May 2013 8:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Agency sticks with its OK for hog farm

    LR lawyer says response to letter not good enough


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is standing by its 2012 decision to issue an operational permit to C&H Hog Farms, the large-scale concentrated animal-feeding operation in Mount Judea.
    In a May 15 letter to the department, Little Rock lawyer Hank Bates claimed the farm’s permit application was flawed and should be revoked until several “omissions, errors and misrepresentations” were addressed by the department and the farm owners. The letter included documentation for a half-dozen purported inconsistencies in the application’s nutrient management plan, the 263-page document that details the farm’s design and plan for safely disposing of the manure of about 2,500 sows and as many as 4,000 piglets at any given time.
    Bates sent the letter on behalf of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, a coalition of several environmental and economic advocacy organizations that have voiced concern about the impact of potential water and air pollution from the hog barn for several months. Bates, a partner at the firm Carney, Bates & Pulliam, said he was not being paid for work done on behalf of the alliance.
    In a response signed by department director Teresa Marks and sent to Bates Wednesday and publicly issued Thursday, the department addressed some of the concerns raised in Bates’ letter.
    In his letter, Bates said soil tests performed by the University of Arkansas Soil Testing and Research Laboratory indicated that the majority of the 630 acres surrounding the C&H Hog Farms production facility, upon which the facility operators plan to spread hog waste as fertilizer for warm-season grasses, were already saturated with phosphorus. The farm’s nutrient management plan later states that “[b]ased on current soil tests, there are no fields at this time that are identified as having high and/or very high soil phosphorous (P) levels.”
    The department’s response says that terms used in assessing a soil’s nutrient levels such as “optimal” or “above optimal” refer to the amount of a given nutrient needed to successfully grow a given crop.
    “[T]he optimum and above optimum soil phosphorus levels are indicative of the agronomic viability of the land application site,” the department’s letter says. “The permit does not limit application based solely on agronomic rates but … is one of many site specific factors and management practices included in the [phosphorus]-index.”
    The department’s response does not address the contradiction between the soil-test results and the statement that none of the farm’s fields is high in phosphorus.
    In streams, excessive levels of phosphorus can cause algae blooms, clouding waterways while choking off other aquatic life dependent on sunshine.
    Bates’ letter also raises the concern that the nutrient management plan does not list the flooding probability for four of the 17 fields that make up the farm’s 630 spreadable acres. Those portions of the planning worksheet instead read “#N/A.” The soil maps included with the nutrient management plan identify these fields, which lay adjacent to Big Creek, a major tributary to the Buffalo National River, as prone to “occasional flooding.”
    The department’s response identifies the use of “#N/A” in other portions of the plan as a simple problem of data-entry error, but does not make direct reference to the use of “#N/A” in the flooding probability estimation for the four fields.
    The department also explained that while flooding frequency is factored into the permitting process, propensity for flooding does not necessarily disqualify an area of land for use when spreading manure.
    Bates’ letter also expresses concerns that the nutrient management plan inaccurately estimated how much phosphorus will be lost from the hog manure between collection and distribution over the farm’s fields. The plan estimates that 80 percent of the phosphorus content in the manure will be lost before being applied to the land, but Bates contended that most of the nutrient content will simply become concentrated at the bottom of the waste lagoons but eventually spread with the rest of the manure.
    The department’s response says that the farm operators plan to agitate the lagoons, removing waste solids and applying them as part of the manure mixture to five fields, four of which are the fields where the flooding frequency was not properly identified elsewhere in the nutrient management plan. The department’s response does not state how often the lagoon holding the waste solids will be agitated.
    Other concerns in Bates’ letter go unaddressed in the department’s response. These include the nutrient management plan’s use of nitrogen-based analysis for one portion of the farm (again, the same four fields mentioned above) instead of the phosphorus-based analysis used for the rest of the farm’s 630 spreadable acres, and the plan’s recommendation to apply 57 pounds of phosphorus per acre, per application, over the entire acreage, while the university soil test results recommend applying no phosphorous to most of the area.
    The department’s response concludes by saying that the department does not agree with Bates’ assertion that C&H Hog Farm’s operational permit should be revoked, based on the information included in his letter.
    Bates said Thursday that the department had failed to adequately address the concerns raised in his letter.
    “[The Environmental Quality Department’s] response to our letter enumerating the inadequacies in the C&H Hog Farms permitting process undefined specifically the Nutrient Management Plan undefined is really a non-response,” Bates said via e-mail. “[The department’s] response inspires little to no confidence that the agency will be enforcing the permit and protecting the Buffalo River as this factory farm ramps up operations.”
    Katherine Benenati, a spokesman for the Environmental Quality Department, said Thursday that department staff members were working to further address unanswered questions in Bates’ letter.
    Bates said that he is scheduled to meet with Environmental Quality Department representatives June 7.

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