Court orders evaluation of hog operations identified as threats to N.C. groundwater

Due to its high concentration of hog operations, eastern North Carolina faces a higher threat of water pollution from the industrial animal production. (© Waterkeeper Alliance)

Yesterday, a federal court agreed with conservation groups represented by SELC and ordered industrial hog producer Murphy-Brown to comply with a 2006 agreement to clean up groundwater contamination at several hog facilities owned by the company in eastern North Carolina. SELC represents Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers in the case.

Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of the largest pork producer in the world, Smithfield Foods, entered into the agreement with Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers to resolve legal challenges alleging violations of federal environmental laws at its industrial hog facilities.

Under the agreement, called a consent decree, an independent groundwater expert chosen by the parties identified 11 facilities in the Neuse, Lumber, and Cape Fear River basins with demonstrated threats to groundwater or confirmed groundwater pollution. Since October 2013, Murphy-Brown has refused to allow the expert to conduct the necessary facility evaluations to develop corrective action plans for pollution at the facilities. The conservation groups were forced to go to federal court to enforce promises made by Murphy-Brown more than a decade ago. 

“In a victory for clean water, this federal court decision requires Murphy-Brown to make good on its promises to clean up pollution at its hog facilities in eastern North Carolina,” said Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler. “Finally we can start to determine the severity of the pollution and figure out a plan to fix the problems.”

Under the terms of the decree, an independent groundwater expert chosen by the parties evaluated Murphy-Brown swine facilities in eastern North Carolina for potential contamination of groundwater by swine waste. That review identified the 11 facilities with demonstrated nitrate groundwater contamination or waste lagoon problems in Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Pitt, Sampson, and Scotland counties. As part of the review, the expert concluded additional groundwater sampling is needed to ensure that groundwater contamination at each site is cleaned up.

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