Friday, September 2, 2016

Hog farm resisting testing for potential Buffalo River pollution

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 3:46 PM

click to enlarge CONTROVERSIAL FARM: Aerial view of C&H hog farm in Mt. Judea, including two manure ponds. - KAT WILSON
  • KAT WILSON
  • CONTROVERSIAL FARM: Aerial view of C&H hog farm in Mt. Judea, including two manure ponds.

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance this week reached a settlement with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on testing for pollution from the C and H Hog farm at Mount Judea in the Buffalo River watershed.

But the farm is resisting the testing and that's prompted a state enforcement action.

The alliance asked yesterday for dismissal of the lawsuit it filed seeking an injunction.  The Alliance reported last week that it had been having difficulties getting responses from ADEQ, but reported the agency had finally gotten in contact Aug. 25.

The Alliance had objected to having only the Big Creek Research and Extension Team observe drilling research. The team, including University of Arkansas representatives, has come to be viewed as more sympathetic to agricultural interests. The Watershed Alliance wanted to have its own expert on hand to watch drilling for samples to see if hog waste has leaked into the ground water. The state is paying for testing.

With the settlement, neither the Big Creek Research Team nor the Watershed Alliance would be allowed to observe the testing. Instead, an independent consultant  would monitor the test. The consultant, from Indiana, was hired by the drilling contractor.

Richard Mays, the Heber Springs lawyer who filed the suit, said the Alliance had checked the consultant and was satisfied with the choice. He said this was a better outcome.

But, a few minutes later, Mays wrote me to say things have "gotten interesting."

Right now, however, the hog farm owner, Jason Henson, is refusing to allow ADEQ to go onto the site to conduct the investigation. ADEQ has issued a Notice of Technical Deficiency in C&H's permit application, which requires C&H to allow ADEQ and its contractors on site, or alternatively orders C&H to do the investigation under the supervision of ADEQ. ... That is the big news.

There may be any number of reasons why C&H doesn't want ADEQ to do the investigation. One may be that they know or strongly suspect that there is a release [of pollution] and are hoping to avoid the investigation. Henson has a sympathetic supporter in some of the BCRET team members, and he may be hoping to get them admitted to the site to help in affecting the results.

Here's the ADEQ notice of a deficiency on the farm's permit.
Here's the Watershed Alliance release, issued before news of the farm's reistance. C and H has been uncommunicative on press inquiries. We asked again. 

The Alliance commented later:

"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."

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