Smithfield plans don’t solve massive pollution problems from hog waste lagoons

This is one of many hog farms swamped by flood waters during Hurricane Florence, sending pollution into North Carolina’s rivers and drinking water sources. (© Waterkeeper Alliance)

Late yesterday industrial hog producer Smithfield announced its response to massive criticism it received in the wake of recent hurricanes and following multiple multi-million dollar jury verdicts against it for nuisance from its hog farms. During the catastrophic rain events, the company’s arcane storage for hog waste, which neighbors have objected to for years, ended up polluting rivers and drinking water sources. The company announced plans yesterday to produce biogas at 90 percent of its North Carolina industrial hog operations.  

Smithfield’s plan fails to protect its neighbors from all the pollution problems associated with its hog lagoons--polluted water, noxious odors, and other nuisances inherent in industrial hog operations. In fact, Smithfield’s plan may make some pollution problems even worse. The company could have invested in cleaner, more responsible technology that protects families, communities, and our air and waterways, especially in the face of more intense storms. Instead, Smithfield chose to further entrench the lagoon-and-sprayfield system, and its injustices.”

—Attorney Blakely Hilldebrand

Smithfield’s biogas proposal still relies on a primitive lagoon-and-sprayfield system that North Carolina juries recently found create a devastating nuisance for neighboring communities. Under this proposal, Smithfield will continue to store hog feces and urine in primitive, unlined pits before spraying the untreated waste on nearby fields, exposing communities in eastern North Carolina to health and environmental risks. Smithfield’s industrial hog operations are disproportionally located in communities of color, making these biogas projects an environmental justice issue.

During major rain events like Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and Floyd, these lagoons spill hog feces into our waterways. Cleaner technologies for managing this waste are available and affordable for this multi-billion-dollar company.

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