The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality announced that it will oversee new testing of an industrial hog farm near the Buffalo River. The new studies will collect data about materials lining waste storage ponds at the farm.
The C&H Hog Farm has been criticized by a number of environmental and conservation groups as a pollution threat to the Buffalo River. Efforts to collect data to back up these claims have been met with mixed feelings. State Representative David Branscum says that the University of Arkansas’ Big Creek Research and Extension Team is already studying the farm intensely.
“We have worked hard about having this… the [University of Arkansas] do this study. It’s a five-year, comprehensive study on pollution—if there is any,” says Branscum. “I’m sure it’s the most in-depth study of a CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation] that’s ever been conducted in the United States.”
But the Big Creek research has been questioned by activists. In part because of this, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has decided to begin third-party supplemental studies of the farm, says Director Becky Keogh.
“It was really to seek some additional information that could hopefully address some of the questions that were raised by some of the community interest groups, and would be a natural follow-up to the study that was conducted through the work that the University of Arkansas research team is advancing,” says Keogh.
Gordon Watkins, President of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, is hopeful that the new tests will include wider input from activists.
“It’s going to be significant where they choose to do those investigations, and how they do them, and how they’re interpreted and we—we hope that they will be open and transparent and inclusive in how they makes those decisions going forward,” says Watkins.
The new studies will be done in collaboration with university research, but they will be overseen by the Department of Environmental Quality.