Senate Enacts Ban On New Hog-Waste Lagoons

US - The state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to permanently ban new hog farms that collect waste in lagoons and then spray it on fields. That method has been tightly restricted in North Carolina for 10 years because of its environmental harm.
calendar icon 19 April 2007
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Lagoons such as this are the standard way to treat hog waste in North Carolina. Liquid waste is sprayed on crops.

The bill would ban the construction of waste lagoons on hog farms as of Sept. 1 and offer farmers up to $500,000 in aid if they volunteered to install more environmentally friendly disposal systems. Farms with waste lagoon systems could continue to use them.

"I think all of you know a great transition has taken place in this state," said Sen. Charlie Albertson, a Democrat from Duplin County and longtime backer of the hog industry. "Our communities are changing."

Albertson, who sponsored the legislation, said he intended it to help ensure the longevity of the swine industry by aiding the transition to better waste-disposal methods that would make the farms good neighbors in their communities.

North Carolina is the nation's second-largest hog producer with an estimated 9.5 million swine on more than 2,300 farms, most of them in Eastern North Carolina.

State leaders have been struggling with how to reduce the water and air pollution caused by the factory farms, which produce huge volumes of manure and urine that sit in open-air waste ponds. While the solids are broken down by bacteria, the liquid waste is sprayed on fields as fertilizer. Often, however, it washes into streams, degrading water quality and promoting conditions that can cause fish kills.

This week the Neuse River, which flows across Eastern North Carolina, was named one of the nation's 10 most endangered rivers, in part because of pollution from factory hog farms.

The bill said waste-treatment systems on new hog farms would have to substantially eliminate odors, airborne emissions of ammonia, discharge of animal waste into rivers and groundwater, and disease-carrying pathogens. The legislation directs environmental regulators to write those standards into law.

Separate bills in the Senate and House would provide $10 million a year for up to five years to help farmers convert to more environmentally friendly waste-disposal systems. The House has yet to take up the bill, but its overwhelming support in the Senate and lack of opposition by the industry suggest strong momentum for approval this year.

Source: The News&Observer

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