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Environmentalist Calls for Strict Oversight of Hog Farm Near Buffalo River

3 min read

CONWAY – Environmentalists must be vocal in their opposition to a hog farm near the Buffalo National River watershed because it’s not only a potential threat to the pristine waterway but also the economy of the region, the chairman of the Pulaski County Ozark Society said Friday.

“The science is clear,” David Peterson told a crowd of about 75 on the University of Central Arkansas campus, adding the hog farm “is a real threat.”

At issue is C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea, which opened in late 2012 after receiving a permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

C&H is permitted to house 2,500 sows and 4,000 piglets on Big Creek, about six miles from where it flows into the Buffalo National River.

Environmental studies on the impact of the hog farm runoff into the river are inconclusive, because the farm began operating just over two years ago. But there is evidence suggesting increases in phosphates, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and other nutrients in the river, Peterson said. 

While the materials remain within legal limits, there is concern a build-up of the nutrients over years and decades could degrade the river and its habitat.

“The science is there, except it’s not dangerous levels,” he said, adding that higher levels of e-coli were detected in May and June.

Another concern, Peterson said, is that region consists of porous limestone rock known as Karst. Water in Karst geological formations leaches through fissures and into the underground system and can end up anywhere along the river.

There is also concern, he said, that the permit allows for some seepage from the two holding ponds on the pig farm property. Peterson said a major flood of 7 inches or more in a 24-hour period could overflow the ponds, where pig waste is stored, and flood Big Creek.

The Buffalo National River, which attracts more than a million people each year for hiking, camping, fishing and canoeing, is a major economic engine to region of the state, Peterson said. 

Environmental damage to the river would have a significant impact the tourism industry, he said.

Peterson said environmentalists should write or telephone their state lawmakers and urge them to make sure there is strict enforcement of the permit by ADEQ and that additional mitigation plans be implemented at C&H Farms. He also said long-term environmental studies of the waters near the hog farm should continue.

A six-month temporary ban on ADEQ from issuing any new hog farm permits in the region is set to expire in mid-April, and Peterson urged everyone to contact their state lawmakers and Gov. Asa Hutchinson to encourage them to support an extension of the ban.

“I think a ground swell of public support for curtailing hog farms, at least along the Buffalo River watershed … is best done by word of mouth,” Peterson said. “If you take people on a trip on the Buffalo River you will have a convert. That’s all there is to it.”

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