Buffalo River Coalition is calling into question the effectiveness of mitigation and remaining firm in calling for the facility’s removal from the watershed.
Mt. Judea, AR – In a commitment letter to the Buffalo River Coalition and a subsequent op-ed in Minnesota’s Star Tribune, international food conglomerate Cargill responded to extensive public outcry in opposition to the location of C & H Hog Farms near Arkansas’ Buffalo National River by steadfastly committing to the factory hog facility’s ill-sited location. Cargill has self-imposed a moratorium on new swine facilities and expansions of C & H in the Buffalo River watershed, along with committing to explore technology to mitigate the effects of their current facility. In a letter sent August 28, the Buffalo River Coalition responded by thanking Cargill for its efforts, but calling into question the effectiveness of mitigation and remaining firm in calling for the facility’s removal from the watershed.
“While our coalition is pleased that Cargill has voluntarily committed to a moratorium on future hog facilities in the Buffalo River watershed, a Confined Animal Feeding Operation should not have been placed directly upstream from America’s first national river to begin with,” said National Parks Conservation Association Program Manager Emily Jones. “It seems contradictory to acknowledge that expensive, experimental technologies are needed to mitigate a so-called ‘state of the art facility’s’ impacts, while having also stated that no harmful bacteria or nutrients will reach the river – which one is correct and are these technologies going to prevent contamination or create more?”
Cargill has committed to support “new, leading edge technology for nutrient management,” specifically a Plasma Pyrolysis process, which experts call an untested and unproven technology for handling liquid swine waste. In their response to Cargill’s proposals, the Buffalo River Coalition stated that implementing this program as a solution would turn C & H, Mt. Judea and the Buffalo National River into “a research laboratory for a private company to test a new application for a process heretofore used for medical waste and other solid material disposal.” And that “the Buffalo River watershed is not the place to carry out such risky experiments.”
“Rather than moving the facility to a region without porous karst geology, a school next door or a national river 6 miles downstream, Cargill has dug its heels in and offered the people of Arkansas and national park supporters across the country mitigation measures that leave the fate of our first national river to chance,” said Buffalo River Watershed Alliance President Gordon Watkins. “This is not the place for an experiment and we shouldn’t be rolling the dice with Arkansas’ crown jewel. There is one solution: remove the facility from the Buffalo River watershed.”
Additionally, Cargill stated its intention to install synthetic membrane waste pond liners. While liners can provide added protection against waste leakage, published information by USDA and others indicates that installation must be done with great care and that a method for leak detection is highly desirable. Avoiding damage to the liners due to agitation and sludge removal is difficult. Millions of gallons of swine feces and urine will still pose a significant risk to both surface and underground water – with the potential for permanent damage to the Buffalo River.
“We’re not talking about a what-if catastrophic scenario, though that’s certainly possible too. The National Park Service has expressed concern over the gradual buildup of pollutants in the river,” said Bob Allen, board member of the Arkansas Canoe Club. “Cargill isn’t just jeopardizing our state’s environmental health, they’re jeopardizing our entire tourism economy. Hardly a fair trade for the 6 jobs that C & H supports. In contrast, the Buffalo supports $44 million in spending and 610 jobs annually.”
The coalition closes its letter to Cargill by stating: “We will also continue to educate the public about the unacceptable risks posed by the inappropriate location of this swine CAFO and we will encourage Cargill as well as state agencies and governmental bodies to recognize the true costs of allowing this risk to continue. We support nothing short of closure or relocation.”
The Buffalo River Coalition was formed to protect the Buffalo National River from this urgent factory hog farm threat. The coalition filed a lawsuit in August of 2013 challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for their inadequate review and improper authorization of loan guarantee assistance to C&H. More recently, the coalition pointed out additional misrepresentations around the permitting of C & H Hog Farms and called on ADEQ to reopen the permitting process. Those calls have been ignored by the state.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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