Swine Waste Solutions – Supporting our Communities with Just the Facts, Please and Thank You

dsc_0252Each 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
(Source: EPA)
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.
*Note: You can also check these out for yourself at http://* http://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2016_north_carolina_animal_feeding_operations_bycounty.php
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?
But none of this is just hearsay either. We have research at the Federal and State levels that gives us the information we need to conclude that hog waste lagoons are polluting our State’s waterways. For instance, take the United State Geological Survey’s (USGS) report titled Surface-Water Quality in Agricultural Watersheds of the North Carolina Coastal Plain Associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that was published in 2015. In conclusion, “The study found significant water quality impacts in watersheds containing CAFOs when compared with those that contained no CAFOs”.
Disproportionate Impacts to Communities of Color:
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:
Industrial Hog Operations in North Carolina Disproportionately Impact African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians.”
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…
  1. Get to know your local farmer’s. Buy meat from them. CAFOs have all but choked out small family farms.
  2. Meatless Monday. Cut back on meat consumption by choosing one day of the week that you and your family refrain from eating meat.
  3. Choose a vegetarian diet.
  4. Vote. Research your choices and choose representatives whom are supportive of more environmentally sound legislature.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


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Nothing to Hide?

As of January 1, House Bill 405 went into effect in North Carolina.

farrowingcratesThe bill originally targeted only people reporting on agricultural facilities. It was designed to be an “ag gag” bill, to keep people from seeing the unconscionable things that take place behind closed doors at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The original bill wouldn’t pass Governor McCrory’s veto, so the authors recast the bill to cover all workplaces, it passed, McCrory vetoed it, and congress overrode the veto.

An industry with nothing to hide doesn’t lobby this hard to get special protection under the law. This is a blatant attack on free speech and journalism. Journalistic freedom is critical to a free, democratic society.

You can read more about it in this NY Times article.

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Reckless Factory Farming Practices Are Killing Children

Check out this report: Nontherapeutic Use of Antimicrobial Agents in Animal Agriculture: Implications for Pediatrics.

If you prefer, here is a synopsis from Mother Jones.

Please support sustainable agriculture. Eastern North Carolina is rife with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) which are not only abusing antibiotics, but are also mistreating animals and polluting both ground water and surface water, resulting in a degraded environment, fish kills, toxic well water, and more.

The most effective way to stop a dangerous industry is to stop buying it’s products. Do what you feel is right, but please get the facts, so you can make an educated decision. You can find more information in the factory farm section of our Issues page.

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Meeting to Oppose the Building of Sanderson Farms

There is a public hearing to oppose the building of Sanderson Farms poultry operations in St. Pauls, Robeson County, NC. If approved, we are likely to see them in the White Oak region in the near future as well. You can help by attending the meeting this Thursday, September 17 at 7:00 pm at the R. E. Hooks Community Building located at 176 North 3rd St in St Pauls. Here is a a short and informative video on poultry waste pollution:


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