Smithfield must fix pollution, environmental injustices at hog operations producing biogas

This aerial view shows an example from eastern North Carolina of the type of outdated, primitive system common for storing untreated hog feces and urine in large, unlined pits, which is then sprayed onto nearby cropland. (© © Rick Dove/Waterkeeper Alliance)

We just challenged four state water permits allowing Smithfield-owned hog operations to use giant pits of untreated hog feces and urine to produce gas while spraying the harmful waste on surrounding areas, continuing a long history of disproportionate water pollution and harm to nearby Black and Brown families.

“Families have been dealing with contaminated water and unbearable odors from Smithfield’s hog operations for decades,” says Maggie Galka, vice chair of Environmental Justice Community Action Network (EJCAN) board. “Smithfield promised neighbors it would clean up its mess, and the law requires it to do so.” 

Our lawsuit, filed in the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, is on behalf of EJCAN and Cape Fear River Watch.

“The law requires Smithfield to use cleaner technology, and Smithfield is not above the law,” says Attorney Blakely Hildebrand. “Smithfield must do more to stop its pollution and continued environmental injustices rather than clinging to the cheapest, most harmful method possible to handle untreated sewage—collecting it in pits and spraying it onto fields—when cleaner technology is available.”

Ignoring long-standing environmental justice and pollution concerns, the permits issued by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality entrench a primitive waste lagoon and sprayfield system at each of the Smithfield-owned operations in which untreated sewage waste from thousands of animals will be collected in large pits and sprayed onto neighboring fields. 

“The lagoon and sprayfield system is without a doubt one of the biggest threats to the water quality of the Cape Fear Basin,” says Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper at Cape Fear River Watch. “Smithfield is doubling down on this polluting system and making our water and air dirtier, when better solutions are available.”

The process for trapping methane from the pits of untreated hog feces and urine does not resolve harmful water pollution from the hog operations or foul odors that plague neighbors, and may make these problems worse.

Other technologies address these concerns and have been implemented at other hog operations, but have not been widely adopted by the hog industry.

“We’re asking the court to require DEQ to comply with a law mandating cleaner technology to manage hog waste and to take additional steps to curb water pollution from these industrial hog operations,” explains Hildebrand.

More News

North Carolina DEQ nixes deal to allow more cyanide into Badin Lake

Public outcry over a transparent plan to evade pollution limits convinced the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to reverse cours...

Court orders halt to blood harvest of horseshoe crabs in Cape Romain

A federal judge has blocked Charles River Laboratories from harvesting horseshoe crabs for their blood from Cape Roman National Wildlife Refuge u...

SELC court case secures red wolf releases into the wild

In a direct result of our latest court case challenging U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, red-wolf breeding facilities just announced the release o...

Groups urge TVA to halt plans for new natural gas plants

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s plans to build six new natural gas combustion turbines in Tennessee and Kentucky that would provide a combined t...

SELC statement on bill to permanently protect Atlantic Ocean from drilling

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. just announced his intention to file a bill to permanently protect the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling....

Catherine Coleman Flowers on being of and for the rural South

Up next in our latest season of Broken Ground is an interview with Lowndes County, Alabama, native Catherine Coleman Flowers. She is founder of t...

More Stories