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ADEQ: Should Big New Hog Feeders Be Banned Near Buffalo River?

PHOTO: The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is seeking comments on whether they should stop new large hog feeding operations in the Buffalo River watershed. CREDIT: thecitywire.com.
PHOTO: The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is seeking comments on whether they should stop new large hog feeding operations in the Buffalo River watershed. CREDIT: thecitywire.com.
June 9, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a permanent prohibition on new, confined hog-feeding operations around the Buffalo River.

Bob Allen, a retired Arkansas Tech professor of chemistry and board member of the Arkansas Canoe Club, said there is a risk that hog waste will muck up the Buffalo.

Allen said the change would not apply to small farms. He also said there are separate conversations with a new hog farm on Big Creek. But he said more farms shouldn't be added.

"We're not trying to chase them out of the valley," Allen said. "What we're trying to do is prevent an overload of nutrients in the watershed. We do not need to have hog production in that location."

The rule change originated outside of ADEQ, and the agency has said it's taking a neutral stance on the issue.

The industry's defenders point to the jobs the hog farms create.

According to Debbie Doss, conservation chair for the Arkansas Canoe Club, the opinion of the public matters in such cases.

"It's very important that the agency hear from people," said Doss. "We've known issues in the past similar to this. The number of responses definitely does make a difference."

Arkansas has put a temporary moratorium on new, confined hog feeding operations in the Buffalo River watershed.

Allen called the Buffalo National River a jewel, one of the longest free-flowing and most pristine rivers in the country. He said it's not the right place for factory farms. According to Allen, the impacts of such operations are cumulative. There's a tipping point where one more is too many.

"It's not a question of if those wastes get to the Buffalo," he said, "but when and how much. You cannot spread nitrogen and phosphorus on soil without having it run off. It's a foregone conclusion."

ADEQ is accepting comments on the proposed rule change until July 1st. A public meeting is scheduled for June 17th in Harrison, Ark.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR