Environmental disaster in North Carolina--product of lax hog industry regulations
lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Oct 17 09:35:51 MDT 1999
NY Times, October 17, 1999
Hurricane Reveals Flaws in Farm Law
By PETER T. KILBORN
KENANSVILLE, N.C. -- In the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, loose regulations
that helped eastern North Carolina become the nation's biggest producer of
turkeys and the second biggest of hogs have come back to haunt the state's
public health and its environment.
Officials say that the September storm that hit the region harder than
anywhere else, killing 48 people and leaving behind more than $1 billion in
largely inescapable damage, also left a vast amount of damage that might
have been averted: incalculable and continuing hazards in ground water,
wells and rivers from animal waste, mostly from giant hog farms.
For years, farmers had been free to build hog and poultry operations as big
as they wanted and wherever they liked. They were allowed to dig huge pits
for animal waste, without regard to the water table or the health and
sensibilities of neighbors.
In the hurricane, feces and urine soaked the terrain and flowed into rivers
from the overburdened waste pits the industry calls lagoons. The storm
killed more than two million turkeys, chickens and livestock in the region,
and waste from the farms is expected to keep leaching into the water supply
until next spring.
"We do have a practical problem here," Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. said.
Normally by mid-October, Hunt said, farmers would have reduced the levels
of waste in the lagoons, where it evolves naturally into nutrients that are
sprayed on crops.
But the lagoons are brimming with flood-bloated waste, and there is less
use for it now. The growth of crops slows in the fall, and many fields have
been saturated or rendered fallow by the storm.
[On Thursday the State Department of Environment and Natural Resources
announced an "emergency waste management strategy" for hog and poultry
farms in an effort to keep waste out of the water supply. The agency is
allowing farmers to spread waste to more fields, but it prohibited
reconstruction of severely hurricane-damaged waste lagoons in the flood
In the current soaked condition of the land, some waste sprayed on the
fields will spread. "We recognize this policy could contribute to water
quality problems through the winter," said Bill Holman, the state's
assistant secretary for environmental protection. "There are so many swine
operations we have a long way to go."]
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