The national nonprofit American Rivers has named the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers among the country's most endangered.
The group says Hurricane Matthew flooded hog farms, sending waste from the farms' fecal lagoons into the watershed and into communities’ drinking water supply.
“During Hurricane Matthew, dozens of these facilities were inundated by that remarkable amount of water that we saw come through the state,” said Peter Raabe, North Carolina Conservation Director for American Rivers. “So we see this as an opportunity in the aftermath of that disaster, to move these facilities out of the floodplain, protecting downstream communities and the river system.”
American Rivers is advocating for some hurricane relief funds to be used to buyout hog farmers and help them relocate farther from the rivers, according to Raabe.
“We think the easiest answer is to move these waste lagoons and these waste piles out of the hundred year floodplain. And that’s something that agriculture producers, the family farmers that are out there, agree with as well.”
The North Carolina Pork Council says it has long supported possible buyout programs, but that Hurricane Matthew had almost no impact on hog lagoons. The council says few lagoons were flooded and maintains that the greatest threat to rivers comes from large cities, not farms. However, the council says it will continue to engage in conversation about a possible voluntary buyout program.