Pure Farms Pure Waters

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Pure Farms Pure Waters

CAFO permit renewals and new CCRW project

NC Swine, Poultry and Digester Waste Management General Permits that up for renewal in 2024.

Swine, Poultry, and Digester General Permit Renewal

NC Swine, Poultry and Digester Waste Management General Permits are up for revisions this year. This is an opportunity for State to receive feedback on the current permits, make changes, and can result in different protections for water quality from 2024 through 2029.

For the 2024 renewals, The Division of Environmental Quality is leading a public engagement process with multiple opportunities for the public to provide input on the review and revision of the General Permits. Division staff state that they will consider stakeholder input while staying within state statutes and assess room for movement within the rules and their authority to address concerns brought up.

On Wednesday, CCRW’s White Oak Waterkeeper, Riley, attended one of these DEQ “Technical Stakeholder Meetings” in Raleigh. Riley was joined by other environmental organizations, social justice groups, State agriculture industry representatives, academic researchers, community representatives and NC Department of Agriculture lobbyists. During the meeting, all attendees had the chance to write down concerns and suggestions for DEQ. This was facilitated by leave sticky notes around the room for every section of the current permits and speaking with DEQ staff and other stakeholder attendees. The meeting allowed individual and group collaboration to develop specific technical comments that the general public may not have the background to comment on.

During the technical meeting, our comments to DEQ centered around:
(1) Stop harming North Carolina’s most vulnerable communities that are constantly exposed to animal waste.
(2) Require better reporting of waste use and water contamination to ensure permit compliance and public transparency.
(3) Impose stricter requirements for monitoring of hog waste impacts so that damage to communities and water can be minimized.
(4) Require that safer technology be used to dispose of hog waste, including non sprayfield methods and automatic rain shutoffs to prevent overflow of lagoons and spraying on wet fields.

“It’s hard to gauge what changes will be made to these permits. During the meeting I felt like DEQ staff were listening and engaging with what I was saying but their take aways at the end of the day didn’t align with what many of us were saying. Hopefully our concerns will be shared by the pubic in future input sessions and the State will realize how much we need water quality protections.”

– Riley Lewis, White Oak Waterkeeper

Most of the state’s 2,200 industrial hog operations rely on a primitive system to manage hog waste that involves storing untreated urine and feces in unlined pits and spraying the waste on nearby fields. This system, called the lagoon and sprayfield system, causes devastating water and air pollution; nearby families get sick and die at higher rates than people living farther away. These operations disproportionately cause harm to Black, Latino, Native American, and low-wealth rural communities. The state’s swine “general permit” regulates how animal operations manage billions of gallons of animal waste at industrial animal operations; the general permit allows these operations to use the lagoon and sprayfield system.

PHOTO: DIAZ. Attendees of last week’s Technical Stakeholder Meeting. Pictured are representatives from Southern Environmental Law Center, NC Environmental Justice Network, Waterkeeper organizations, NC Conservation Network and Toxic Free NC.
The stakeholder process will continue throughout the summer and will include a public input session and comment period that will be considered in the development of the draft 2024 general permits. The release of the drafts will be followed by a public process including public meetings and a 90-day comment period. Information on the stakeholder sessions, public meetings and public engagement are detailed below and DEQ will be updating this as events are scheduled.

North Carolinians have a chance to tell the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to update the general permits for the state’s industrial animal operations so that they will better protect our health, rivers, and drinking water. DEQ is conducting a “stakeholder” process including a public meeting on May 9 and the opportunity to submit comments by phone, email, or mail until June 5.

The public meeting on Tuesday May 9th will not be a standard podium 3 minute statement format. Instead there will be self guided stations around a room that will allow for the public to interact with a DEQ staffer and share comments. Stations will be grouped into “monitoring”, “community impacts”, “biogas” (digesters), “info sharing”, “operations and maintenance”, and “other.” On the top of the hour, every hour, DEQ will give a presentation on the permits.

We encourage YOU to attend the meeting on Tuesday or submit your comments over the phone or email!

You do not need technical understanding to share your concern for water quality and your neighbors. The excessive animal waste that is produced in these facilities and the use of archaic waste lagoons are damaging the land, water, and people all over the state. If the industry isn’t reigned in, our lands will become unable to grow food, our waters will be unsafe to eat and drink from, and our neighbors will endure hardships caused by poor health.

DEQ next steps for the Waste Management General Permits.

New Pure Farms Pure Waters Project

CCRW is excited to announce a new Pure Farms Pure Waters project! This project will be in conjunction with our Water Quality for Fisheries program and will assess bacteria levels throughout the New River, use DNA to track the sources of this bacteria pollution, outreach into impacted communities, and report observed CAFO violations to the state.

In 2021, the CCRW WQ4F project was developed through collaboration with the coastal commercial and recreational fishing community, water quality researchers, and coastal water quality advocacy organizations as a result of an outcry of concern for water quality impacts that are having a direct impact on marine fisheries and marine ecosystems. Industrial Agriculture and Factory Farming (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – CAFOs) are the number one water quality impact to fisheries according to those who fish on the NC coast. (Survey Results Identifying Water Quality Concerns Prioritized by Coastal Fishing Representatives: Carolina_Riverwatch_Summary_Report#1)

Our goal for this PFPW-WQ4F expansion is to assess the extent of hog waste pollution in both impaired waters and waters being used for fishing (recreational, commercial, and subsistence fishing), improve outreach to impacted and military communities, and increase poultry transparency in North Carolina.

If you are interested in volunteering with CCRW please reach out!

We are always looking for community advocates who are interested in visiting impacted communities, developing social media content, providing a hand with field work, and have an eye for editing!

There is always work to be done and the Staff and Board of CCRW appreciate your support for our mission. Water quality impacts us all and we can’t do what we do without you being extra eyes, ears, and voices in your community.
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