Blog Post Emily Jones Mar 3, 2014

State of Arkansas Wastes Taxpayer Money in Flawed Water Monitoring Study

The fight to protect the Buffalo National River from an industrial hog farm continues to twist and turn, much like the river itself.

C&H Hog Farms opened in 2013 on the banks of Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo, and the state approved the facility without adequate public notice or official public comment period. Last summer, NPCA asked advocates to urge Cargill’s CEO to move the operation to a more suitable location—one where the CAFO’s two million gallons of pig waste a year wouldn’t sully the Buffalo River’s pristine waters.

Now it turns out that the state’s decision to allow the CAFO to operate at this ecologically sensitive location was based on faulty information, resulting in a misuse of taxpayer money.

Above: See the recent video by the Buffalo River Coalition for an overview of its campaign to save America’s first national river from inappropriate industrial hog waste.

One of the most serious environmental concerns for any industrial hog farm is how operators will dispose of the waste from so many animals kept in such a small space. Manure can enrich the soil if it is spread across enough land, but if the soil becomes too saturated with waste, excess manure can run off and pollute waterways, especially in regions like this one, which has porous terrain. C&H’s nutrient management plan, submitted to the state last year, claimed that the facility had access to 17 parcels of land (sometimes referred to as “manure sprayfields”) to spread its waste. However, owners of three of these 17 fields say that they denied the company permission to use their properties for this purpose.

Meanwhile, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe approved spending more than half a million dollars in state taxpayer money to monitor the water around C&H’s sprayfields through a University of Arkansas study. Two of the three fields where landowners denied C&H permission to spray its waste are included as part of the researchers’ study. Including non-sprayed fields in the study seriously impacts the integrity of the monitoring process: The water quality assessment as a whole may not accurately reflect the environmental impact of the hog farm, since researchers would be testing virgin fields; and property owners may be subjected to trespassing and violation of privacy as researchers unknowingly gather samples from these properties based on C&H’s incorrect management plan data.

Fortunately, there is still a chance to reverse this bad decision before it does more harm. NPCA is part of a coalition of concerned residents, advocates, and scientists called the Buffalo River Coalition. The coalition is asking ADEQ to reopen the permitting process to reconsider whether it makes sense to allow this CAFO to add two millions of gallons of harmful pig waste to the watershed each year.

If you live in the state of Arkansas, you can ask ADEQ Director Teresa Marks to reopen this flawed permit for public comment. Even Director Marks admitted in a recent New York Times article that “some of this waste could reach the Buffalo River.” Respected Arkansas hydrologist Dr. John Van Brahana put the situation in more urgent terms: “There is a probably greater than 95 percent chance that we are going to see impacts of degraded water quality and major environmental degradation.”

If you don’t live in the state of Arkansas, you can still ask Cargill’s CEO Gregory Page to move the CAFO out of a sense of corporate responsibility, even if the state isn’t doing its due diligence.

About the author

  • Emily Jones

    Senior Program Manager, Southeast

    Emily’s work as Senior Program Manager for the Southeast region revolves around building momentum within local communities and garnering congressional support to ensure our national parks become a national priority.