agriculture, Environment

DEQ levies largest fine in eight years on Sampson County hog farm

B&L Farms, an industrialized swine operation near Spivey’s Corner in Sampson County, was fined more than $87,698 by state regulators today for a waste lagoon breach that spilled 3 million gallons of feces and urine into nearby waterways and wetlands, killing at least 1,000 fish.

The spill occurred on June 12. DEQ investigators found that Bryan McLamb, who is permitted to raises 2,580 hogs at the farm, had allowed the level of waste to reach the top of the lagoon berm “for a prolonged period of time.” McLamb also failed to keep accurate spraying records and did not regularly inspect the lagoon levels.

McLamb is a contract grower for Smithfield Foods.

After the spill, testing by DEQ showed extremely high levels of fecal coliform bacteria — at least 3,000 times higher than water quality standards — downstream.

“The egregious nature of the violations and the severity of the environmental harm in this case require a serious penalty that holds the owner accountable for not operating in compliance with their permit conditions and the laws of North Carolina,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan in a prepared statement.

The B&L fine is the largest assessed on any concentrated animal feeding operation since at least 2012. In 2018, DEQ penalized Lanier Farms of Jones County $64,000 for an extensive history of noncompliance resulting in a 1 million gallon spill into the Trent River. Lanier also was a Smithfield contract grower. Facing Clean Water Act violations, the company later removed its hogs from Lanier’s operation.

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