Hog Waste

Devon Hall, Sr., is 62 and has lived in the Duplin County town of Warsaw all his life.
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

Hog country in eastern North Carolina can be beautiful and serene. Pastoral scenes with uncluttered horizons, neat farmhouses, corn fields swaying in the breeze, and livestock quietly grazing – the perfect place to sit on the back porch and sip some sweet tea. But if the wind shifts just right – and it often does – powerful odors from farms can force neighbors to take refuge indoors.

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Gov. Roy Cooper slammed down another veto Friday, his fourth of this legislative term.

Cooper vetoed House Bill 467, which would reduce the liability hog farmers face for the nuisance caused by stenches wafting from their operations.

An aerial photograph of a CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation, taken on Monday, October 10, 2016 shows the facility surrounded by water.
Rick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance

The national nonprofit American Rivers has named the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers among the country's most endangered.

New Maps Detail Scope Of NC's Poultry And Hog Industries

Jun 24, 2016
A hog waste lagoon in Beaufort County, NC.
DefMo / Flickr Creative Commons

A coalition of environmental groups released a series of interactive maps documenting thousands of large-scale hog, cattle and poultry farms across North Carolina.  

The maps identify more than 4,000 hog waste lagoons and 14,000 poultry barns. Environmental advocates  say the large amount of waste generated by  confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, poses environmental and public health risks that the state government has failed to properly regulate.

biogas
Dave DeWitt

To a visitor, the hog houses down a dusty dirt road outside Magnolia, North Carolina look like any other hog houses.

Here in Duplin County, there are low-slung buildings like this one around every bend, filled with hundreds of thousands of hogs. But this facility is different—just how different can be found down the hill behind the building.

Manure, flowing from the hog house, falls out of a pipe and into an open-air cement tank. From here, it goes to a much larger, circular, blue tank called a digestor.

hog farm
Steve Wing, UNC-Chapel Hill

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.

A hog waste lagoon in Beaufort County, NC.
DefMo / Flickr Creative Commons

  

It’s been an environmental quandry for years: what to do hog waste in North Carolina.

The state is home to nearly 9 million hogs, which produce massive amounts of waste.

Some of it goes back onto the farms of eastern North Carolina as fertilizer, but much of it is stored in open-air lagoons, which have been known to contaminate groundwater and produce a putrid smell for nearby homes.

A new technology exists to convert the waste into energy but it is not affordable for most hog farmers.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Several environmental groups have filed a federal complaint against the state over hog waste. In a filing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the organizations say North Carolina has failed to enforce rules regulating disposal of hog waste.  

A USDA official meets with a hog farmer in Johnston County in 2011 to review animal waste management system.
Bob Nichols, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Hundreds of people in eastern North Carolina have filed nuisance complaints against Smithfield Foods about the way hog farmers dispose of their waste. 

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

The multi-billion dollar merger announcement between Smithfield Foods and China-based Shuanghui International caught many people by surprise.  Smithfield owns the largest hog processing plant in the world, in Tar Heel.  And thousands of hog farmers and factory workers in North Carolina are employed by the company.

If the deal clears regulatory hurdles, it could be the biggest takeover of a US company by a Chinese company.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Researchers at Duke University say they have shed more light on the prospects of using hog waste to produce energy. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office is using a hog farm company's violation to send a message on protecting the environment.

Gurnal Scott: The admission by Columbus County-based Freedman Farms to dumping hog waste in a offshoot of the Waccamaw River in 2007 is costing the company dearly, to the tune of a million and a half dollars.

Thomas Walker: We think that this amount of money going back in to help the people of this district is something that's worth celebrating.

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The Humane Society of the United States is serving notice to 51 different hog facilities that it will sue over the amount of toxic air pollution they produce.

Leoneda Inge:  Six of the farms are in Edgecombe County and they are all owned by Hanor of Wisconsin.  Peter Brandt is the senior attorney for Farm Animals at the Humane Society.   He says the high level of ammonia produced by these hog farms shows a disregard for the environment, communities and federal law.