|Big Creek Valley, Newton County, Arkansas, area of proposed industrial farm.|
We are key stakeholders in any decision. ... We didn't find out until the permit had been taken out and a loan given for the farming operation. ... Why didn't they notify the first national river about this? We're only five miles from the facility.Cheri reported that his agency learned of the proposed farm when local property owners and members of the Ozark Society asked his office about it. The paper further quotes Cheri:
We're behind the curve and trying to get more information ... so we can articulate our concerns, and take it to the next level, if that is what is needed. We want to be assured this is not going to cause any contamination of water and affect public health.What I find shocking about how ADEQ handled this matter is that they published public notices of hearings about the farm only in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, in February and April of 2012. ADEQ did not publish any notices in either the Newton County Times or the newspaper for neighboring Boone County. I would guess that the number of Newton County residents who regularly read the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is very low. (See more about Newton County demographics here; 79% are high school graduates and only 12% have a bachelor's degree or more). ADEQ reports that it held six public meetings received comments from 13 individuals, organizations and corporations. It does not specify, however, whether any of those offering comment were residents of Newton County, or of neighboring Searcy County, which the Buffalo River runs through not far downstream from Big Creek.
The plan that ADEQ approved includes two "shallow-pit confinement barns" and "collecting states [sic] in two story ponds, then spreading it on a 670-acre farm." The Ozark Society, which reviewed the permit, reports that it approves "17 separate hog waste application fields, 11 of these [ ] adjacent to Big Creek." The permit specifies:
a buffer zone of approximately 100 feet between Big Creek and the hog waste application fields. The facility's treatment facility consists of in house shallow pits with a capacity of 759,542 gallons, a settling basin with capacity of 831,193 gallons and a holding pond with capacity of 1,904,730.
This amounts to 2,090,181 gallons of manure, litter and wastewater generated per year. This is approximately 5,727 gallons per day spread on fields (630.7 acres). On average, 9.1 gallons per day would be spread on each acre or 75 pounds per day per acre.
The permit does not allow discharge of the waste, but rather it must be applied to the owner's fields. If an overflow occurs, the permittee must test the pond, but has 30 days in which to report the overflow and likely run-off. All of the fields and facilities are above the 100 year flood level. The fields will be used for hay and pasture.The permit states that "land application areas will receive application at rates consistent with infiltration capabilities of the native soil so that there is no runoff."
|Buffalo National River near Ponca|
At the end of its story, the Newton County Times notes that one of the farm's co-owners and its vice president, Richard Campbell, is a justice of the peace/member of the Newton County Quorum Court (the Arkansas equivalent of a Board of Supervisors). The Newton County Wildlife Association, which also opposes the factory farm, has suggested that the Quorum Court consider this controversy.
No timeline for the opening of the farm is indicated, though the story makes a mention of the farm seeking funding, presumably for start-up costs.