CAFOs in the Hurricane Alley

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Hogs in the Hurricane Alley

Those who have been in NC for a few years will remember Hurricane Florence in 2018 and the devastating impact it had on local communities and waterways. Coastal North Carolina has a long history with hurricanes and is no stranger to the impacts of flooding but some residents remain unaware of the impact Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) lagoons can have after a storm.

In the aftermath of these storms, confinement buildings containing thousands of chickens, turkeys and hogs flood, some to their rooftops. The birds kept inside perish under these conditions. So do many of the hogs. Horrific environmental damage occurs when swine and poultry feces and urine get flushed out of the confinement buildings and the massive lagoons (cesspools) that are in harm’s way.” – Rick Dove

Rick is an advisor to the larger Waterkeeper Alliance and has been involved with monitoring CAFOs in NC for nearly 30 years and thoroughly documented the environmental impacts of Hurricane Florence.

When CAFO lagoons rupture or overflow it can lead to hundreds of gallons of raw animal waste entering our environment. This influx of bacteria and nutrients can lead to E Coli and bacteria contamination in seafood, algal blooms and fish kills, and air pollution around the spill.

Because of this impact on fish communities and water quality, CAFOs are identified as one of the top 5 water quality concerns for NC fishing communities identified in CCRW’s Water Quality For Fisheries project.

As of 2020, the NC Department of Environmental Quality has record of 61 CAFOs in Onslow County and 1 located in Carteret County.

PHOTO: NCDEQ, 09.30.22

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With the recent rain and wind from hurricane Ian, CCRW is planning a flight to observe impacts from this weekend’s weather and identify any water quality concerns. Be on the lookout for updates from us and report any suspicious waters to us and your regional DEQ office.

To learn more about how industrial agriculture and factory farming practices can impact water quality and coastal fisheries, watch this:




There are documented water quality impacts facing our coastal waters as the result of impacts from CAFOS and other livestock and industrialized agriculture issues.

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch and other stakeholder groups are documenting a lack of regulatory action or enforcement to protect water quality from these facilities. The result has had a detrimental impact on the health of our streams and neighboring communities, especially in the lower part of the Coastal Carolina Riverwatch service area (Onslow County).

CCRW Water Quality Advocates support the following actions:

Funding for the Swine Farm Buyout Program – The swine farm buyout is a voluntary program that was established in the wake of Hurricane Floyd to remove swine farms from the 100-year floodplain.

Oversight of the Poultry Industry – The poultry industry in North Carolina has little regulation, which leads to unchecked amounts of nutrients and bacteria from these facilities polluting our state’s waterways.

What Water Quality Advocates are calling for:

  • Poultry Study Bill – to understand the impacts of poultry waste on our state waterways.
  • Poultry Siting Act – to prevent new construction of growing facilities within the 500-year flood plain.
  • Poultry Buyout Program – to remove facilities within the 100-year flood plain.
  • Nutrient Waste Utilization Plans – to be submitted to DEQ for approval and prohibit land application of poultry waste within 100 ft of surface waters.

Funding to Support Farmers:

  • Increase Funding for Soil and Water Cost-Share Programs – The Agricultural Cost Share Program typically receives as much as $20 million in requests for $4 million in annual funding statewide. We recommend doubling that to meet demand.
  • Livestock exclusion from waterways – We suggest establishing a fund of $1 million recurring annually to help farmers install livestock exclusion fencing and alternative water sources.

For more info about local water quality information, please contact:

Riley Lewis,

White Oak Waterkeeper

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch


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