Before and after aerial photos of animal waste lagoons released today show the enormity of the flooding that inundated hog and chicken farms in eastern North Carolina. The force and amount of the water potentially released millions of gallons of liquid manure into the Neuse, Black and Cape Fear rivers, and onto the land.
The Environmental Working Group and Waterkeepers Alliance published the photos and an assessment report today. An interactive map indicates where the alliance flew over the farms and photographed conditions there from Oct. 10-17.
In Craven, Duplin, Green, Jones, Lenoir, Pitt, Sampson and Wayne counties, the flood partially submerged about a third of the 92 confined animal feeding operations that lie within the 100-year floodplain near and on the coast:
- 10 industrial pig farms with 39 barns,
- 26 large chicken-raising operations with 102 barns and
- 14 open-air pits holding millions of gallons of liquid hog manure
Within the 100-year floodplain, the EWG report says, 62 CAFOs house more than 235,000 hogs and 30 CAFOs house over 1.8 million chickens. There are 166 open-air waste pits directly within the 100-year floodplain, and another 366 within 100 feet of the area.
A 100-year floodplain is defined as an area where there is a 1 percent chance of flooding annually. But that’s merely an average; flooding could occur there more than once a year. However, as the climate changes, the boundaries of 100- and 500- year floodplains are changing, even if the FEMA maps are not. Damage is also happening beyond traditional floodplains.
After Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state closed 42 swine facilities with 103 waste pits. It also imposed a moratorium on new swine farms that use waste pits or spray manure onto fields. However, existing waste pits and spraying operations continue under DEQ permits. And poultry farms are not regulated by DEQ, but by the state agriculture department.
On Oct. 18, DEQ announced it would begin water quality sampling in several river basins. According to records requested by NCPW, the first phase of results shows the type of contamination that has been detected. (The amount of contamination was not listed in the report, but the data should be in next week, according to a DEQ spokesperson.)
There were 30 monitoring locations near rivers and two more near Duke Energy’s HF Lee Plant near Goldsboro, where coal ash leaked into the Neuse River.
The 30 locations detected any or all of these contaminants associated with animal waste and wastewater treatment plants: fecal coliform, chloride and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Nearly half — 14 — detected one or more of these contaminants: pesticides, herbicides, gasoline, diesel fuel, volatile organic compounds (unspecified) and semi-volatile organic compounds (unspecified). The source of these chemicals is likely agricultural runoff and fuel spills.
Monitoring stations both upstream and downstream of the Lee plant contained metals, which would be expected in the case of a coal ash spill or leak.