Waste disposal causes controversy for N.C. Smithfield producer

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



Environmental groups recently threatened to sue the operators of a North Carolina hog farm that produces for Smithfield Foods over violations of the Clean Water Act.

Together we can feed the Bees"

The Waterkeeper Alliance and Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation are accusing the Stilley Facility, located near Trenton, North Carolina, of improper manure disposal causing discharge to flow into tributaries of the Trent River and, ultimately, the Neuse Estuary.

The organizations said they are giving the owner 90 days to change their manure disposal tactics or they will file a citizen lawsuit under the Clean Water Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

“We are seeking to work cooperatively with the facility to stop illegal swine waste discharges, and, if this is not successful, will file a CWA citizen suit,” wrote Marc Yaggi, the executive director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, in a statement.

Hong Kong-based Shuanghui International bought Smithfield Foods in September 2013 to become the largest pork producer in the world.  The Stilley operation produces for Murphy Brown LLC., a major livestock subsidiary of Smithfield.

Although Smithfield did not comment on the threat from environmental groups, the North Carolina Pork Board pointed out that each year the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conducts two inspections at each hog farm in North Carolina, and they include inspection for discharge into state waters.

Also, the North Carolina DENR is designated by EPA to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.

Every swine facility with 250 or more swine is required by state law to obtain a permit-either a state permit or a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit-explained Christine Lawson, acting supervisor of the Animal Feeding Operations Branch at the N.C. Division of Water Resources. By July 2013, North Carolina had a total of 2,119 permitted swine facilities.

In a description of their stance for the lawsuit, the environmental organizations targeted all swine facilities in North Carolina, saying they “store massive amounts of raw feces and urine in open, antiquated pits that can pollute the groundwater.”

“As this multi-national corporation takes the reins, it is time for our government to compel the phase-out of all existing swine waste lagoons,” added Yaggi of the Waterkeeper Alliance.

According DENR data, of the 2,135 swine facilities in North Carolina in the year from July 2011 through June 2012, the DENR found 90 operations with violations, which is roughly 4 percent of all swine operations. 

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