State Denies Permit to Hog Farm Near Buffalo River

An environmental agency denied the permit because of concerns that pig waste might contaminate the nearby river.

P Ig Farming

VENDOR, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas environmental regulatory agency denied a permit for a hog farm Monday because of concerns that pig waste might be contaminating the nearby Buffalo River. 

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a final decision that C&H Hog Farm in Vendor can no longer operate. Its decision followed a period of public comment after the department initially denied the permit for the farm in September.

The department first denied the farm's permit in January, but the farm appealed to the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, which sent the decision back to the department in August. The farm appealed that decision as well, and in October a judge ordered a stay on the department's decision to deny the permit in September.

In its report, the department said it was denying the permit because of concerns that waste produced by the farm was contaminating the nearby Big Creek and Buffalo River. It tested two areas of each body of water close to the farm and found that all four "failed to meet water quality standards" under the department's regulations. Additionally, testing revealed higher levels of nitrates in the water and phosphorous in the soil.

The department found parts of the farm sit on a geological topography called karst, which is characterized by soft rock eroded by rainwater. Although the farm commissioned studies which found no karst in areas near pig waste, the department disagreed and said further geological assessments should have been done to properly determine the environmental safety of the farm.

Attorney Richard Mays, who represents two groups which oppose the farm, called its location "one of the worst places you could put a hog farm."

"I think the science is overwhelming to support the conclusion that it's not in a good location, it should have never been put there in the first place and that it should cease operations," Mays said. 

But Arkansas Farm Bureau Public Relations Vice President Steve Eddington says other studies have found no impact from the farm on the river, and the issue has not been resolved by the department's decision. "I think this is just ultimately going to be resolved in court and it's been headed that way for some time. The decision today is certainly not a surprise to anybody," Eddington said. 

Representatives for C&H could not be reached for comment. The farm can still appeal the department's final decision.