Each watershed faces its own unique issues when it comes to pollution. Some areas face stormwater runoff that carries chemicals and other forms of pollution from roadways and parking lots. Other areas may face high levels of bacteria due to untreated sewage. But for Onslow County one of the issues the New River and its tributaries faces is agricultural runoff from large swine farms called concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs.
What is a swine CAFO?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a swine CAFO is defined in a matter of three categories: Large, Medium, or Small. As defined by the EPA these are categorized in the following ways:
swine (weighing over 55 pounds)
2,500 or more
750 – 2,499
less than 750
swine (weighing less than 55 pounds)
10,000 or more
3,000 – 9,999
less than 3,000
That’s a lot of animals, right?!
Southeastern North Carolina houses the second largest concentration of hog CAFO facilities in the nation, only second to the entire state of Utah (Source: United States Department of Agriculture). Here is just one example of the sheer volume of CAFOs in Duplin County, North Carolina.
As you can see from this aerial photograph of an area in Duplin County, North Carolina there are five separate CAFO facilities located very near one another.
Many of the CAFOs are installed on or near floodplains as well, increasing the risk of agricultural contamination making its way into nearby creeks.
(Sources: EWG, WKA, and NCDEQ)
But let’s take a closer look at Onslow County alone. Thanks to mapping using Waterkeeper Alliance (WKA), Environmental Working Group (EWG), and NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) data we can now quantify the amount of CAFOs and waste produced in the New River watershed area.
Number of Feeding Operations in the New River Watershed? 61.
Animal and Waste Estimates:
Dry Waste output (for example: poultry litter) 23,449 tons per year
Wet Waste Output (for example: liquid swine waste) 118,531,568 gallons per year
Number of Hog Waste lagoons? 50…
So, what is a “hog waste lagoon”?
Hog CAFOs in NC use an unlined open air pit to store hog feces that is later sprayed onto a nearby designated spray field using a giant aerial sprayer or lower lying sprinklers.
Each hog waste lagoon contains tens of millions of gallons of raw liquid hog waste in an unlined pit in the ground that is then sprayed onto a spray field. Doesn’t sound very technologically advanced or environmentally sustainable given the amount of hog waste lagoons in one watershed, now does it?
The environmental damages have been assessed when it comes to CAFOs. What other challenges are there to overcome? Environmental racism. North Carolina has historically located environmental pollution in areas where communities have had little leverage or money to protect their heritage. Unfortunately, these communities are largely communities of color.
Research completed by the University of North Carolina’s late Professor Steve Wing and scholar Jill Johnston concluded:
By overlapping maps of North Carolina’s enslaved population from 1860 and industrial hog operations re-permitted in 2014 Dr. Steve Wing and Jill Johnston were able to show the concentration of CAFOs following a pattern that disproportionately affects the descended families of enslaved peoples in North Carolina.
(Source: Wing and Johnston, 2014)
What do we do now?!
Here is what you can do…
Get to know your local farmer’s. Buy meat from them. CAFOs have all but choked out small family farms.
Meatless Monday. Cut back on meat consumption by choosing one day of the week that you and your family refrain from eating meat.
Choose a vegetarian diet.
Vote. Research your choices and choose representatives whom are supportive of more environmentally sound legislature.
Write your Representatives and encourage them to support environmentally superior hog waste technology, such as systems that can convert hog waste to energy to run farms.
Write corporate (Smithfield Foods and Murphy Brown for example) to encourage them to fund their contracted farmer’s transitions to more environmentally healthy hog waste management technology. After all, these contracted farmer’s are getting pooped on too. Pun intended, of course.
Keep on educating yourself and your community. Slowly, but surely, we can make a difference.
It happened again, but it couldn’t have happened on a nicer day. We had a cleanup on the New River on Oct 15. We had several new volunteers, which makes me very happy. At least one of the volunteers is in the habit of picking up trash on all of his trips. That is always nice to hear. Some people can’t attend an organized cleanup, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a difference. Every piece of trash you remove from the environment is one less piece of trash that is damaging our environment.
Thanks to everyone for coming out and making a difference. Also, don’t forget about Operation Medicine Drop this coming Saturday (Oct 22).
The development of land can lead to environmental problems if not approached in sustainable ways. This is why there are planning processes before construction. One of the key issues that stretch across the board into each watershed is stormwater runoff which can impact habitat and nurseries and more.
Swansboro North Carolina draws many individuals because it is a popular tourist spot and a popular destination for retired folks to move. We have two such land developments occurring in the near future that the public needs to keep their finger on each way of the process. You can do this by calling your local representatives, writing your local paper, and attending local meetings.
Many have been following the development of the Hammocks Beach State Park mainland area planning. Your opportunity to give input and voice concerns is coming up! Please stay abreast of the opportunities and flood these meetings with your local friends and family to aid in making sound sustainable land use decisions of our beautiful State Park lands near the White Oak River. You can take the survey here: http://www.ncparks.gov/hammocks-beach-state-park-mainland-area-plan
Meetings on the development of the Hammocks Beach State Park are listed here:
September 29, 2016
4pm-7pm, Visitor Center (Please drop-in at your convenience during these open house hours)
Anticipated Meeting Timeline
Sage Design – Collecting Site Inventory Information – July – September 2016
1st Public Meeting – September 29th from 4-7pm – Seeking input and Ideas
Sage Design – Synthesis of all information gathered to date and development of a Draft Planning Document
2nd Public Meeting – Jan- Feb 2017 Presentation of Draft Program and Ideas, seeking additional input
Sage Design – Synthesis of all information and development of a Final Planning Document
3rd Public Meeting – March – April 2017 Presentation of Final Recommendations and Plan
What else is happening in the Swansboro area?
Bailey and Fuller Properties, LLC, a commercial development business, is soon developing 810 West Corbett Avenue off of Hwy 24. The area consists of 4.51 acres in the White Oak basin, 1.04 acres of which is 404 jurisdictional wetlands. The Town of Swansboro received a map from the developer that was not delineated and did not include any reference to the 404 wetlands. Having no knowledge of the aforementioned 404 wetlands, the commissioners of the Town of Swansboro issued a special-use permit to the developer on Tuesday, August 23rd. However, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers did receive a map of delineated wetlands and issued a public notice, which can be found here: Public Notice.
Had the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers not given public notice the Town of Swansboro commissioners would not have known of these wetlands. Please, be sure to make public comment to the Army Corp of Engineers by September 12th noting the Town of Swansboro made important decisions with incomplete information and should be allowed an opportunity to review all the information before making a decision! Comments can be made by email to Brennan.email@example.com and should be sent by 5pm on Monday, September 12.
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” – Chief Seattle, Duwamish(1780-1866)
Izaak Walton League of America’s (IWLA) National Clean Water Fellow Samantha Roth led a Creek Freaks training this weekend at the IWLA – White Oak River Chapter. Ten people in all from non-profit organizations to University professors were in attendance. We learned lots of valuable ways to engage the locals and students in our watershed through classroom exercises, chemical testing to outdoor macroinvertebrate sampling.
Jessica Hult, President of the White Oak River Chapter IWLA, provided us all with a prime creek location on Caleb’s creek to pick through the awesome “water bugs” and do some water testing. Why would we like to look into the macroinvertebrates, water chemistry and watershed exercises? North Carolina has this wonderful natural heritage that provides us with recreational activities with our families. We have beautiful aquatic habitat with diverse species. We have economic tourism opportunities that rely on the quality of our water bodies. Ultimately, we want to connect locals and future generations with their natural heritage so they can determine appropriate water conservation and land usage in their own communities. The White Oak New Riverkeeper Alliance will be collaborating with the IWLA White Oak River Chapter on some prime sampling locations and making Creek Freaks opportunities available to our volunteers and families in the near future. I am excited to provide these opportunities and I am thankful to the IWLA for bringing this training to our watershed!
It has come to our attention that the public has been misinformed in that Sage Island Design – a digital marketing agency based out of Wilmington – is being contracted to create the new master plan for Hammock’s Beach State Park with the possible inclusion of a 5 boat ramp. In fact, Sage Design at http://sagedesign.us/repo/sara-burroughs/ will be taking on this project.
We have learned that Sage Island Design has received many phone calls with questions regarding their involvement since the developments surrounding the misstatement made by a state official and please ask that people refrain from contacting the digital marketing agency.
Nicole L. Triplett
White Oak-New Riverkeeper
July 16th turned out to be yet another successful litter clean up. As we pulled into the Henry McAllister Landing (from US 258 turn onto Rhodestown Rd and follow the signs) we were greeted by a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News that was there to get the scoop. Dale Weston, WONRA President, gave a good interview on the use of chainsaws in litter clean ups involving fallen trees. While this is a dangerous practice that should never be attempted by a novice, we do have a few experienced individuals in our organization that know in order to get those fallen trees from the river that just collect all the trash a chainsaw is inevitably the quickest and best choice.
In all, we had seven volunteers. That includes my six year old whom enthusiastically also learned to paddle the kayak we were sharing that day. Our trip was somewhat abruptly halted when we began to hear thunder in the distance.
We all made it back to the landing before any rain however.
Interestingly, I got two reports from concerned citizens about some fallen trees in that same area days later. The New River remains pretty shallow there at times.And this has been a repeat problem area with strainers. As always, I very much appreciate the reports from citizens! You are our eyes and ears.
Six industrious volunteers converged at Bicentennial Park in Swansboro around 09:00 on July 2, 2016. We collected a lot of trash (no surprise, there). In just 2 hours, we picked up about 6 large bags of trash and some larger items.
Four of the volunteers were already on my list of invitees to the volunteer appreciation party. I added two new people to the list. I had hoped to add a bunch more.
For those of you who really wanted to help out but just couldn’t make it, I’ve got good news. We’re going to have another cleanup on the 16th of July. The next one will be on the New River, downstream from Rhodestown Road. There will be a lot of trash to pick up, but we’ll have shade, so it won’t be so hot. Please check out our Meetup group for details. If you’re a Meetup member (you can join for free) you can RSVP there. If you don’t want to join Meetup and you want to help out, please get in touch with Nicole or one of our directors.
I encourage everyone to join us. It can be a messy job, but it’s not difficult and it is really important work. If you don’t have a boat, let us know and we’ll see if we can get you into a boat. If you volunteer for even one event this year, you’ll be invited to our volunteer appreciation party. Our most active volunteer is going to get something cool. I’m not sure what, yet, but I’m sure it will be better than getting hit on the head by a falling pine cone.