U.S. Water News Online
GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Environmental protections at about 275
hog farms will get a boost under a settlement announced between a hog
producer and environmental groups that sued two hog farms in 2001,
according to a news release.
Two hog farms operated in Jones County by Murphy-Brown, a
subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc., were sued by Waterkeeper
Alliance, Neuse River Foundation, and Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, which
contended that the hog farms routinely disposed of waste in a manner
that violated federal laws and threatened human health.
With 10.1 million swine, North Carolina is the second-largest pork
producer in the nation. The farms produce large amounts of manure and
urine, which are flushed from barns into open-air waste ponds and
later applied to fields as fertilizer. The lagoons have polluted
waterways when they flooded and angered neighbors concerned about
Smithfield fought unsuccessfully to have the lawsuit thrown out.
In 2001, a federal judge ruled that the environmental groups could
pursue their claims.
Under the settlement, Murphy-Brown will use a computer system to
monitor weather to help prevent the spraying of fertilizer before,
during and immediately after rain storms. The agreement also calls
for the farms to use automatic devices to shut down spraying when
winds exceed 15 mph.
Murphy-Brown also will pay for programs to help identify and
prevent potential lagoon risks to groundwater as well as increase
stream buffers and wetlands to protect public waterways, the release
"Over time, we will see improvement in both groundwater and
surface water quality as a result of this settlement,'' said Steve
Fleischli, executive director of New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance,
told The News & Observer of Raleigh. "Our focus will now turn to
convincing the rest of the industry to follow Smithfield's lead.''
Smithfield Foods, of Smithfield, Va., estimates the cost at
several million dollars.
"If you looked at Smithfield and our behavior on Murphy-Brown
farms, you've seen a series of environmental improvements and
efficiencies,'' said Dennis Treacy, vice president of environmental
and corporate affairs for the company. "This is just the next logical
The settlement was filed in U.S. District Court in Greenville and
is subject to review by the U.S. Justice Department and approval by
On another front, researchers are devising alternatives for hog
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