The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is launching an investigation into the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The investigation will look at whether DENR was too lenient in regulating hog farms that are located near minority households.
Residents and environmental groups have complained for years that collecting manure in lagoons before spraying onto fields is harmful and creates noxious fumes.
“For too long, DENR has failed to fulfill its obligation to protect citizens from the negative impacts of the hog industry,” said Larry Baldwin, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Coordinator at Waterkeeper Alliance, said in a statement. “I am confident that the EPA investigation will find this to be true, and we look forward to having representatives come to eastern NC to see the impacts first-hand.”
Last fall, environmental groups asked the EPA to investigate DENR. They claimed that DENR would have more strictly regulated the 2,000 North Carolina swine operations if the neighbors were not Black, Hispanic or Native American.
"We understand that the EPA has agreed to review the complaint and will provide any information the agency needs during that process," DENR spokesman Drew Elliot said in an emailed statement to the Associated Press.
The letter from the EPA to the Waterkeepers Alliance announcing the investigation stresses that the probe itself is not an indication that any wrongdoing has occurred.