Update on Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) seeking an injunction to allow representatives of the Alliance to be present during investigative drilling at C&H swine facility. BRWA awaits official response from Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). BRWA intended that this injunction would expedite issues that require resolution.
Events are unfolding rapidly. Multiple communications have been and are occurring between BRWA and ADEQ. Since a JULY 8th meeting between BRWA and ADEQ, the Alliance has continued to attempt to collaborate with ADEQ (often with no response) to ensure this study's scientific objectivity and that independent observers corroborate and work proceeds appropriately. Both parties, the C&H CAFO and the public benefit from science done right. When $75,000 is spent to find answers, BRWA wants to make sure the right questions are being asked and are answered.
Regardless of the outcome of this study and how it is conducted, even the fact that it is needed points to the all too obvious conclusion that such an operation has no place in the sensitive karst terrain of the Buffalo River watershed.
Timeline of events: leading to injunction
(Note : Major concerns of study’s workplan listed below in this timeline under August 4)
In April of 2016 the Alliance presented new and critical scientific information about the possible release of contamination from hog waste beneath the C&H Hog Farms industrial facility in Mount Judea, Arkansas to a meeting of the Commissioners of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APCEC).
July 8, 2016 representatives of the Alliance and the Buffalo River Coalition, met with ADEQ officials at offices of Attorney Richard Mays to discuss collaboration with regard to an independent investigation of possible leakage of the C&H swine waste lagoons as was indicated by electrical resistivity imaging ( ERI) conducted in early 2015.
The Alliance arranged for noted geophysicist Dr. Bert Fisher to participate in the July 8 th meeting via phone and he provided valuable advice on technical aspects of the drilling procedures and subsequent laboratory analysis.
On July 12: BRWA and Coalition send follow-up Letter to ADEQ in response to July 8 meeting.
July 28: BRWA and Coalition send 2nd followup letter to ADEQ regarding workplan for drilling.
On August 2, ADEQ announced the establishment of a website devoted to the C&H Pond Integrity Investigation. While the proposed draft plan appeared to be generally sound, the Alliance expressed several concerns to ADEQ and requested they be included in the investigation.
August 4 BRWA sends list of concerns to ADEQ
Those concerns include but are not limited to:
depth of drilling should be more than the workplan’s proposed 100 feet. Note ADEQ has stated as of August 25 that depth will be approximately 120 ft. BRWA maintains it must be a depth of at least 120 feet. more than the proposed one drill hole should be done. Inclusion of expert observer Bert Fisher
The first two bullets have not been addressed to date and the last point was the basis for the injunction :
The draft work plan included no provisions for participation by Big Creek Research and Extension Team (BCRET) in this investigation. BCRET however requested that they have at least 2 observers present during drilling. Since BCRET failed to report the ERI results in the first place, the Alliance objects to the presence of any BCRET team members as observers at the site unless the Alliance is provided the same opportunity.
On August 4 Alliance attorney Richard Mays sent a letter to ADEQ objecting to the presence of any member of BCRET on the site during the investigation unless the Alliance representative, Dr. Fisher, was also allowed to observe. BCRET was aware of possible pond leakage over a year and a half ago yet chose not to report the ERI data to ADEQ or follow recommendations by its ERI contractor to investigate further. As stated in the Complaint, “These circumstances compromise BCRET’s objectivity…” ADEQ, by denying the Alliance, an equal stakeholder in the process, to likewise observe, is acting in a capricious, arbitrary and discriminatory way towards the Alliance, which is the basis of this Complaint.
As of August 23 ADEQ had not responded to requests by the Alliance for an observer.
As a result, on August 24th, a Complaint for Injunctive Relief was filed on behalf of BRWA in federal court, requesting a hearing to allow the presence of Dr. Bert Fisher as an observer.
On August 24 ADEQ made contact with BRWA attorney.
August 25. BRWA awaits official response from ADEQ.