During the administration of our former Governor, James B. Hunt, Jr., the swine industry was allowed to explode in growth and pollute North Carolina's environment in unspeakable ways. Now, years later, Governor Hunt expresses regret for not doing more to protect the environment.
RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER April 1, 2008
"Regrets? He has at least one. "I did not do nearly as much in protecting the environment of North Carolina as I wish I had done." he says, adding that he now rejects the old notion that business and environmental issues are somewhat at odds. "We know that if you want to have the kind of economic development based on real brain power that North Carolina wants to have, people who help make that happen value the environment tremendously, and are attracted by a beautiful environment. "
This is not an "awakening." In his second term, the devastation caused by the swine industry in North Carolina was so evident that Governor Hunt was forced to speak out. The following excerpts are taken from a web site published in the late 1990s under his administration:
Swine production has mushroomed over the last decade. Despite a decreasing number of swine facilities, the number of hogs has increased threefold to ten million……There are approximately 2,400 major swine facilities in North Carolina with approximately 4,000 active anaerobic lagoons, and there are about 650 inactive swine lagoons…..
......swine production in North Carolina can produce significant odor, reduce neighboring property value, and harm tourism. Also, as shown in the above graph, the number of hog farms has decreased from almost 70,000 to under 5,000 facilities (emphasis added).
Environmental and Public Health Impacts
......the environmental and public impacts of the swine industry demand further action by the State and the swine industry. Swine production impacts the environment and public health are listed below.
Surface Water. Surface water can be contaminated by discharges from the lagoons or run-off from sprayfields. In 1998, there were 107 documented discharges from swine facilities with 31 of these reaching the surface waters.
Groundwater. Groundwater can be contaminated either through leaking lagoons or leaching of sprayfield applied waste. An NCSU study showed that waste from 38% of older, unlined anaerobic lagoons leaked nitrogen compounds into the groundwater at "strong" or "very strong" levels, while preliminary estimates of a Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) study indicate that 25% of lined facilities may leak to contaminate groundwater. DENR data show that conventional sprayfields seem to be just as problematic as lagoons.
Odor. Odors are generated from lagoons, sprayfields, or swine houses. When odors are not confined to the property of the operations, they have the potential to cause health problems, heightened community tensions, and losses in property values.....
Atmospheric Deposition. Approximately 2/3 of the nitrogen in the swine excretions is emitted to the air in accordance with the design of a lagoon and sprayfield system. A DENR study estimates that swine facilities produce 20% of North Carolina’s total atmospheric nitrogen compounds which react with other constituents in the air and is deposited to land, vegetation, and water bodies. This figure is 53% for just Eastern North Carolina.
Nutrient Imbalance. The rapid growth of the swine industry has resulted in a nutrient imbalance in parts of North Carolina. The feed imported to swine facilities generates more nutrients than receiving plants, land, and waters can absorb. For example, 95% of the nitrogen in manure produced in the Neuse River Basin is imported from outside the basin.
Public Health. Swine waste is a source of nitrates in groundwater and pathogens in the ground and surface waters which can directly impact human health. Odors too can adversely impact human health as they can cause coughing, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and burning eyes as well as psychological effects.
Plan for Anaerobic Lagoon and Sprayfield Conversion
Given the risks of swine production to ground and surface waters, air, and public health, the Hunt Administration proposes a widespread conversion of swine waste lagoons and sprayfields to new technologies. All swine facilities will be rated to determine their risks to public health and the environment. Facilities that fail to protect public health or the environment will be required to convert to new technologies or close out their lagoon and/or sprayfield systems. Facilities, which demonstrate through monitoring and other criteria that they are operating in an environmentally sound manner, will have the option of keeping their current waste management systems. Those that choose not to convert must meet stringent new protection standards according to their risks while converted facilities will have lower regulatory and monitoring requirements. This plan is the best way to ensure the public and the environment are protected while at the same time enabling swine production to remain a viable part of North Carolina’s economy.