Stronger Protections Needed for Hog Waste

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are industrial-scale livestock facilities raising animals in high density for meat, eggs, or milk. Thousands of swine and poultry are confined in small spaces, contaminating the local air and water with urine, feces, and other animal waste. This leads to significant environmental and health impacts, including water and air pollution, soil degradation, noxious odors, and the spread of diseases.

Filth In The Air

In eastern North Carolina, most CAFOs are located in historically underresourced BIPOC communities with a long history of environmental injustice. Duplin and Sampson Counties have more industrial hog operations than elsewhere in America. Many families have lived with air and drinking water contaminated by pig waste for generations.

CAFOs frequently store thousands of gallons of hog feces and waste in open-air cesspits. The untreated waste is then sprayed on croplands as a fertilizer, a practice livestock operators call the “lagoon-and-sprayfield system.”

Spraying crops this way propels up to 200 gallons of animal urine and fecal matter through the air each minute. The waste winds up on nearby houses, contaminates the surrounding air, and can be smelled for miles around.

While numerous lawsuits have sought justice for the neighbors and communities surrounding these facilities, none have stopped the practice thus far.


Take Action

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking public input on a new General Permit regulating dangerous pollution from CAFOs. Tell DEQ no new permits without protection!
cafo spray lagoon
Photo credit: Rick Dove

Fuel to the Fire

Over the past few years, corporate hog farms have attempted to “solve” the problems in this system by monetizing their livestock waste, covering their cesspits with tarps to capture methane, and piping it to market as an energy source. The methane captured by this process is commonly called “biomethane” or “biogas.”

These projects can leak as much as 15% of the methane they produce, adding a potent fuel to the climate crisis. Research by Dr. Emily Grubert at Georgia Tech found that most capturable methane from digestion systems is too dirty to be used as energy directly and must, therefore be “flared,” resulting in more CO2 emissions. And a more recent report out of the UK found that biomethane projects may be leaking at an even larger scale.

Digestion systems also pollute the air and water with ammonia, an irritant that can burn the skin, mouth, throat, lungs, or eyes. Ammonia is a precursor to particulate matter, which can exacerbate asthma or other respiratory illnesses. This process can amplify nitrate levels in the digestate (the fecal and urine matter); nitrates seeping into the groundwater will quickly contaminate a community’s drinking water.


The Smell of Money Free Film Screening

5:30 pm - 8:00 pmLenoir-Rhyne University–Asheville

Statesville Public Hearing: CAFOs General Permit

6:00 pm - 7:00 pmStatesville Civic Center