Press Release | October 14, 2015

Murphy-Brown Faces New Legal Challenge

Chapel Hill, N.C.- Conservation groups filed a motion in federal court seeking to require Murphy-Brown to comply with a 2006 agreement to clean up groundwater contamination at 11 hog facilities in eastern North Carolina.

Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc, the largest pork producer in the world, had faced four different legal challenges relating to Clean Water Act violations from its massive industrial hog farms, before a 2006 agreement with Waterkeeper Alliance and the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation (now Sound Rivers, Inc.) was reached. But a motion filed today by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers alleges that Murphy-Brown has failed to comply with a central component of the agreement—remedying demonstrated groundwater hazards at 11 of its hog facilities in North Carolina. 

“Murphy Brown has not upheld its commitment to address significant risks to groundwater from its hog facilities, and as a result, its facilities continue to threaten water quality in eastern North Carolina,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “We’re asking the court to require the company to make good on its promises.”

Under the terms of the agreement, an independent groundwater expert chosen by the parties evaluated Murphy-Brown owned and operated swine facilities in eastern North Carolina for potential contamination of groundwater by swine waste.  That review identified 11 facilities with demonstrated threats to groundwater.  As part of the review, the expert identified additional groundwater sampling needed to ensure that groundwater contamination at each site is cleaned up. 

“This agreement had been a positive step toward addressing pollution plaguing nearby communities,” said Gray Jernigan, Raleigh-based staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. “It's unfortunate that Smithfield Foods and Murphy-Brown have decided not to fulfill their obligations and have forced us to return to the courts.”

Murphy-Brown refuses to allow the consultant to take necessary groundwater samples.  Through this motion, the Southern Environmental Law Center asks the court to require the company to adhere to the requirements of the agreement between the parties and allow the consultant to gather necessary data to develop corrective action plans for each of the 11 identified sites that pose a threat to groundwater.

“For every day that Murphy-Brown fails to act, the waterways of eastern North Carolina are threatened by waste from swine farms owned and operated by Murphy-Brown,” said Travis Graves, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper.

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About the Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

About Waterkeeper Alliance:

Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 260 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect more than 2 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. For more information please visit: www.waterkeeper.org

About Sound Rivers:

Sound Rivers was formed by the merger of the Neuse and Pamlico-Tar River Foundations on April 1, 2015 which combined two of the oldest conservation organizations in North Carolina.   Sound Rivers continues the mission and purpose of both previous organizations, to monitor, protect and enhance the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico Rivers and watersheds.  These watersheds cover more than 12,000 square miles and include the Pamlico Sound, a major component of the second largest estuary in the United States.  Sound Rivers has three RIVERKEEPER®s who serve as investigators, advocates and educators for their watersheds, and it represents the interests of thousands of members and donors who live, visit or love this beautiful region of North Carolina.  Sound Rivers and its members seek to ensure clean, safe water and an ecologically sound environment for today and for future generations to enjoy.

Press Contacts

Blakely Hildebrand

Senior Attorney

Phone: (919) 967-1450
Email: bhildebrand@selcnc.org