U.S. Water News Online
AYDEN, N.C. -- Don Lloyd stepped up a ladder and dipped his
empty bottle into a tank of water that six hours earlier had been
flushed out of three nearby pens filled with thousands of hogs.
"There, that's pig water," Lloyd proclaimed as he held up the
bottle and tipped it back for a thirst-quenching chug.
Lloyd's demonstration wasn't designed to gross people out, but to
show just how confident he is in his system that purports to purify
the kind of putrid, waste-filled water currently dumped into
so-called hog lagoons across North Carolina.
The pilot system developed by Lloyd at Little Creek Hog Farms
cleans out three hog houses four times a day, churning out potable
water within six hours that is recycled again to water the hogs. The
solid waste strained from the water is mixed with high-carbon cotton
plant remnants to make compost.
"The data that we have seen so far on this system is encouraging,"
said Mike Williams, a North Carolina State University professor
overseeing an evaluation of several alternatives to the traditional
hog waste lagoons.
The $150,000 system developed with help from a state environmental
grant is completely closed, with pipes running from flushing tanks
through the houses and into purifying tanks.
Chuck Stokes, the owner of Little Creek who was part of a
coalition of farmers involved in the project, praised the system as a
safe and simple method of handling the waste of the 10 million hogs
in North Carolina at any given time, the most of any state except
"We wanted to do it and do it right and do it in a way that
everybody could be satisfied," Stokes said.
Environmentalists with Sustainable North Carolina partnered with
hog farmers on the project, a coalition as unlikely as the vegetarian
mock chicken salad slid in next to the barbecue and fried chicken
lunch at Stokes' farm. They cheered the notion of an inexpensive way
of eradicating the hog waste lagoons.
The lagoons have been attacked as environmental hazards that emit
airborne pollutants and then foul the soil when farmers repeatedly
spray their contents over fields as required.
Researchers have been looking for an alternative to hog lagoons in
the state since at least 2000, when Smithfield Foods, one of the
nation's largest pork producers, agreed to spend $15 million
researching new ways to process hog waste. Smithfield and Premium
Standard Farms agreed to start using the new technologies on
company-owned farms when it was economically feasible.
N.C. State's Williams said he plans to end all of the study
projects by the end of the year and then make a recommendation to the
office of Attorney General Roy Cooper. The state will then work with
the hog companies to get the approved systems in place within the
next few years.
Several systems have met the environmental qualifications of the
program, but cost up to six times more than using hog lagoons. Only a
few totally do away with lagoons, Williams said, and just one or two
others make the water potable.
Lloyd estimated that his system -- which so far has met the
program's environmental requirement -- may cost 40 percent less to
operate than a hog lagoon.
"I know without a doubt we have the components to do away with the
lagoon system," Stokes said. "All we can do is bring it to the table.
We're frankly just tired of being caught up in the crossfire."
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