GOOD NEWS: Richard Mays, a Heber Springs lawyer, reads statement from Buffalo River Coalition on state decision to further review how well waste ponds are preventing hog waste pollution in the Buffalo River watershed.
Tom Coulter reports from a meeting of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission
that the state WILL hire an independent analyst to check the integrity of waste ponds at the C and H Hog Farm
in Mount Judea.
The hog farm — a concentrated factory swine feeding operation — has been controversial since state approval for its location next to a creek that feeds the Buffalo National River. Studies to date have provided some indication
that hog waste is leaking into the ground below, with potential to travel into the waterways.
The Buffalo River Coalition had urged the independent tests. Resistance has been rising in the agriculture sector to the continued scrutiny of the operation. What happens on the Buffalo isn't necessarily restricted to the Buffalo, many farmers and meat producers fear.
While happy about the independent testing, the coalition said it still awaits answers to who will do the testing and the scope and protocols of those tests.
Transparency is especially important in this case because of its history [approval of the farm's permit came with virtually no public notice] and it is to everybody's advantage that the coalition and other interested parties be given full opportunity to collaborate that includes being full informed of developments and results.
The coalition's statement said the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality had pledged an open and transparent process.
The coalition reiterated today that electrical resonance imaging had indicated the possible release of hog waste. This information was collected by a state-backed Big Creek Research and Extension Team, but not made public "for reasons not yet fully explained." A followup on that finding is "the first step in proving or disproving whether there is a release that could be disastrous to the Buffalo River."
The statement followed a commission meeting at which researchers said they'd found no evidence of significant leakage. But environmentalists questioned the friendly relationship between agricultural extension workers at UA and farmers. They said it was one reason
for an independent look.