River advocates have served legal notice to a large industrialized hog operation in eastern North Carolina for violations of the Clean Water Act. On behalf of Larry Baldwin, the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, Richard Dove, and the Waterkeeper Alliance, legal counsel from the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Waterkeeper Alliance have sent a notice of intent to sue to a concentrated animal feeding operation of over 7,000 hogs, J.C. Howard’s Hill and Taylor Farm in Jones County, for illegally discharging harmful pollutants—including fecal coliform and oxygen-depleting nitrogen and phosphorus—into waters of the Neuse River watershed.
“The J.C. Howard Hill and Taylor Farm spent years avoiding its obligations under the Clean Water Act,” said Hannah Connor, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. “The farm’s neighbors and the environment can no longer wait for this operation to make the right decision with regard to swine waste disposal. Clean water and healthy communities are too important to take a back seat.”
“With over two million hogs in the Neuse River Watershed producing the equivalent fecal waste of over twenty million people, the environmental problems associated with industrial hog pollution can no longer be ignored,” said Larry Baldwin, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper. “North Carolina’s rich natural and agricultural history will be in jeopardy unless we take action now.”
Due to a heavy concentration of animal operations present within its watershed, the health of the Neuse River system is closely tied to compliance with the Clean Water Act. Serious problems associated with nutrient run-off plagued the Neuse River in previous years—pfiesteria outbreaks and fish kills—and led to some regulatory efforts. Recently, in the fall of 2009, the Neuse River again experienced a massive fish kill of about 100 million fish, which alarmed residents and tourists concerned about area drinking water, fisheries, and aquatic recreation.
“Declining water quality in our state continues to raise serious questions about the impact of concentrated animal operations on waterways and estuaries critical to communities, fisheries, and tourism,” said Kay Bond, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. Given the large number of hog farms in North Carolina, compliance with the Clean Water Act is critical to preserving and protecting our state’s public waters.”
Evidence gathered by the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation over the past two years, including extensive water sampling and photographs, reveals that the operation regularly violated the law by applying hog waste to fields so that the waste ran freely into ditches, off of the property and directly into nearby waterways, including the Joshua Branch as well as the connected Trent River and its tributaries.
Upon receipt of the notice, the J.C. Howard’s Hill and Taylor Farms has 60 days to bring its operations into compliance with Clean Water Act requirements. If, at the close of 60 days, sufficient action has not been taken to address these violations, the groups will file a lawsuit in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Submitted by: Larry Baldwin, Neuse Riverkeeper, 252-637-7972