The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission is considering a proposed permanent ban on future large-scale hog farms in the Buffalo National River watershed. The commission is taking public comments in Harrison Tuesday night over concerns waste run-off will pollute the National River.
The ban on large operations would still permit some hog farming – limited at 750 swine over 55 pounds and 3,000 hogs under 55 pounds. At 2,500 hogs C&H Hog Farms, recently in operation near the Buffalo River, has nearly three times the number of large swine allowed under the proposed rules. With 4,000 hogs weighing less than 55 pounds C&H exceeds the proposed maximum of 3,000. Rule changes would prevent C&H from expanding but would not curtail current operations.
The President of the Ozark Society Robert Cross helped craft the proposed regulations and said the permitting approval of C & H Hog Farms shows rules need to be revisited.
“A lot of people will stand up and say, ‘Well it meets regulations therefore there’s no problem. But the regulations are deficient. Particularly for the Buffalo River we think different rules should be applied,” said Cross.
He argued waste from industrial hog farms pose a risk to water quality.
“If any leakage, run-off, or infiltration of waste gets through the thin layer of soil it will go into the streams, the springs, the groundwater and will almost certainly reach the Buffalo River. We’re proving that through dye studies. A geologist would say that for putting a swine farm in Arkansas this is the absolute worst place that could be chosen because of the geology of the area,” said Cross.
He said research from a UA Profesor, Van Brahana, confirms porous limestone in the Buffalo watershed poses a unique risk for waste run-off. Cross said the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has not conducted any research to counter their findings.
ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said geology was considered when granting the permit.
“There is definitely karst formation in that area but that is all taken into account and whenever the nutrient management plans are done those issues are taken into account,” said Marks.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality approved the permit for C & H in 2012. ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said C & H met permitting requirements but the department still wants to see the results of a five year University of Arkansas study. Marks said she’s particularly interested what it says about karst, limestone formations.
“We have not done an independent study in the Buffalo River watershed or across the state on hog farm production at this point. We’re waiting to see what the University study relates. We have looked at some of that and had some conversations with some folks in other states about concerns they’ve had,” said Marks.
Public input is evaluated along with comments from the ADEQ and Arkansas Legislative Council. Written comments are being accepted by the commission through July 1st.
The proposal follows a six month moratorium on new operations that began in April as a response to concern expressed by residents, environmental groups, and several public officials such as Governor Mike Beebe after the approval of C & H.