Monday, March 31, 2014

Opposition to modification of hog farm permit voiced

The latest chapter in the dustup over an industrial hog farm in Newton County, Arkansas (covered in prior posts here, here and here) is an application the farm has filed seeking modification of the permit the state granted for it to begin operation in 2013.  Specifically, C & H Hog Farm now seeks to use a truck rather than the previously approved sprinkler system to spread manure on three fields.

On March 24, the Arkansas Dept. of Environmental Quality held a public meeting to consider the application for permit modification.  Sixty-five people attended the meeting at the Jasper School, and most, it seems, advocated re-opening the entire permitting process for the farm.  Sixteen attendees took the five minutes allocated to each to make statements.  The Newton County Times reported that "[f]ewer than half of those who made comments said they reside in Newton County." (That seems to be a nod to the issue documented here.) Among those speaking were Jerry Masters, executive vice president of the Arkansas Pork Producers Association and John Bailey, Permits Branch Manger, Water Division, who explained that the farm was eligible for financial and technical assistance to install the spraying system through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Program.  Gordon Watkins, a Newton County organic farmer associated with the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance advocated that the three fields at issue should be included in a University of Arkansas monitoring study, asserting that if the fields' owners are unwilling to participate in the study, their fields should "not be part of the permit's nutrient management plan."

The Newton County Times summarizes the concerns voiced, none of which appears new:
the absence of monitoring noxious air quality needed to protect area residents and students attending Mt. Judea School; that phosphorous Index numbers for the fields' soils are not public reported for analysis; manure runoff will pollute Big Creek a tributary to the Buffalo National River; spread of disease from pig manure and impact on local health; need for closer monitoring of area ground water; use of a truck on the fields would compact their soil creating greater amounts and higher concentration of runoff; polluted water will travel quickly and spread through the karst geological formation of the area contaminating other water sources; detrimental impact on tourism and other businesses in the Buffalo River region.  
Two speakers articulated support for the hog farm, noting that they believed the farm was already exceeding permit requirements "to ensure that the farm would not jeopardize Big Creek or the Buffalo River."

ADEQ Director Teresa Marks facilitated the hearing, which lasted only one hour and ten minutes.

C & H is the only facilitate in Arkansas to operate under the CAFO general permit.  It's waste treatment system consists of in-house shallow pits with a 760,000 gallon capacity; a settling basin with a capacity of 831,000 gallons; and a holding pond with a 1.9 million gallon capacity.

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