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Is Hog Waste Still a Problem in NC? April Program Meeting

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. CAFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.

NC CAFO Coordinator Larry Baldwin and attorney Gray Jernigan of the Waterkeeper Alliance,  and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr of the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, will speak about the dangers to human health from industrial hog farms in eastern North Carolina, and what can be done about them.

In 1997 North Carolina passed a law prohibiting the expansion of existing hog operations and placing a temporary moratorium on new hog CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) although permits in the hopper were approved. The moratorium became permanent in 2007 with the Swine Farm Environmental Performance Standards Act, which banned new lagoons and mandated that any new or expanded CAFOs must use environmentally superior technologies (ESTs) to substantially reduce emissions and prevent waste discharges into surface and ground waters. 

In 2008 the Government Accountability Office reported that some 7.5 million hogs in five eastern North Carolina counties produced an estimated 15.5 million tons of waste per year, and that in one year a single 80,000-head facility could create 1.5 times the waste of the city of Philadelphia.

The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and the Waterkeeper Alliance have issued notice that they intend to sue Wendell H. Murphy, Jr., and  other owners and operators of North Carolina industrial hog farms over illegal discharges of waste into groundwater, wetlands and streams.  In addition, Waterkeeper organizations unsuccessfully called on Gov. McCrory to declare a state of emergency over a viral epidemic that’s killing hogs en masse, leading to disposal concerns.  Dead hogs are typically buried in mass graves, which present a risk of contaminating shallow groundwater and nearby streams.

The NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources often claims that animal feeding operations in the Neuse Basin operate under "no-discharge" permits. Yet the agency admits that the operations often directly discharge swine waste to public waters through ditches and drains -- a violation of both state and federal law.

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