Stilley Farms aerial view
Confinement barns and an open lagoon that holds hog urine, excrement and other waste produced at Stilley Farms in Jones County, N.C. Pollution from the facility is blamed for fouling the Trent River and Neuse River Estuary. (Photo by Waterkeeper Alliance via Flickr.)

NC hog farm threatened with citizen lawsuit over water pollution

Environmentalists have filed a notice of intent to sue the owners and operators of a massive hog farm in eastern North Carolina for illegally discharging animal waste that's fouling the Trent River.

The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and the Waterkeeper Alliance aim to stop pollution from Stilley Farms, which confines more than 11,000 hogs near Trenton, N.C. The farm -- what's known as a "concentrated animal feeding operation" or CAFO -- raises the swine for Murphy-Brown LLC, the livestock production subsidiary of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the largest U.S. pork producer and processor. Smithfield was purchased by the Chinese pork giant Shuanghui International Holdings in September 2013.

The groups plan to file suit under citizen enforcement provisions of the federal Clean Water Act and Solid Waste Disposal Act if action isn't taken to stop the discharges and clean up the facility within 90 days.

"Corporations that now control the meat production industry are threatening public health," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance. "Since the government is looking the other way, we are taking action to compel this industry to comply with federal law and stop using North Carolina's waterways for disposal of swine waste."

Hog waste contains pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants that can cause fish kills, endanger swimmers, promote toxic algae blooms, and contaminate drinking water. The Stilley Facility is discharging the pollution into tributaries of the Trent River, which flows into the Neuse Estuary, an important fishery that regularly experiences pollution-related algae blooms and fish kills.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has acknowledged that its efforts to reduce pollution for nearly two decades have failed to achieve "any significant decrease in actual nutrient loading to the estuary" and that phosphorus pollution of the Trent River has actually increased.

The environmental groups threatening to sue point out that NCDENR often claims that animal feeding operations in the Neuse Basin operate under "no-discharge" permits. Yet the agency admits that the operations often directly discharge swine waste to public waters through ditches and drains -- a violation of both state and federal law.

"The continued mismanagement of swine waste at Stilley Facility is a danger to the health of North Carolinians and the environment," said Larry Baldwin, CAFO coordinator at Waterkeeper Alliance. "The communities that depend on clean, healthy water from the Trent River and the greater Neuse River basin have a right to clean water and, since the government hasn't taken action to address this issue, we will."

Image: 
Confinement barns and an open lagoon that holds hog urine, excrement and other waste produced at Stilley Farms in Jones County, N.C. Pollution from the facility is blamed for fouling the Trent River and Neuse River Estuary. (Photo by Waterkeeper Alliance via Flickr.)
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CAFO's contaminating drinking water

These CAFO's are contaminating water all over the country. As destructive as they are, we cannot just blame them for this mess. We just need to look in the mirror if we really want to see who's to blame. We all wanted cheap food and we wanted someone else to raise that food. We all wanted something for nothing - unfortunately, we forgot that we always get what we pay for. In this case, we got horrendous environmental destruction, new virulent, pathogenic, antibiotic resistant bacteria, viruses and molds. We have meat that is full of estrogenic compounds and steroids, antibiotics, heavy metals, and other toxic and cancer causing chemicals. We have animals living in a concentration camp with absolutely no right to live a healthy and sane life. This will not change until we make it change. We must all speak up and get involved. We must BE the change.

If people would just stop

If people would just stop eating pork the problem would go away! Pork is not good for you!

how rude

how rude

This wouldn't be happening if

This wouldn't be happening if Larry Baldwins' organization Coastal Carolina River Watch wasn't pushing for hog farm cleanups and Waterkeeper Alliance wasn't helping keep the Neuse River Foundation afloat by paying their New Bern Riverkeeper to go take water samples at this and other hog farms. Credit needs to be given where due.

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