After the Storm: NC Deals with Toxic Hog Waste and Groundwater Contamination Risk

by | Sep 20, 2018

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The effects of Hurricane Florence linger on as concerns about environmental damage escalated following reports of hog lagoon flooding at some of the state’s 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said it had received reports of breaches, or structural failures, at least two hog-waste lagoons. One breach in Duplin County was considered a total loss and more than 2.2 million gallons had spilled out, noted Megan Thorpe, a department spokeswoman.

The agency said heavy rains had caused manure to spill over at 21 additional lagoons. It didn’t have an estimate for the total amount spilled at farms.

Spilled waste such as that from hog farm lagoons could potentially contaminate groundwater and spread pathogens such as salmonella and insecticides.

Potential Solutions

In the wake of hog farm lagoon flooding caused by storms such as Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Floyd in 1999, environmental teams have brainstormed ways to prevent such ecological harm.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the public and private sectors must work together to prevent this type of toxic flooding in the future, which will only see more instense storms.

“The public and private sectors must fully fund the oversubscribed buyout program that closes manure lagoons in high-risk floodplains,” said Maggie Monast, Senior Manager for Agricultural Sustainability at EDF.“They must also increase investments in lagoon covers and advanced manure management technologies like manure digesters, which have the additional benefits of generating revenue for farmers, creating jobs in rural areas, and reducing the impacts of manure on public health and water quality.”

Monast noted that hurricanes like Florence and other heavy rain events are becoming the new normal.

“The state and hog industry have made progress reducing flood risk during the last twenty years, but there’s much more we can do,” she said. “Recovery from this disaster must include support for communities and farmers to put resilient systems in place.”

According to The Washington Post, the North Carolina Pork Council says that lagoons holding hog feces and urine are supposed to safely absorb at least 19 inches of rain and that ahead of the storm, many were prepared for more than 25 inches. But Florence dumped that much or close in some areas.


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