NEWTON COUNTY, Ark.. There’s a new development in the C & H Hog Farm controversy — and it could potentially work in favor of the farm.
You may recall that C & H near Mount Judea was denied a permit to continue operations, after opponents of the farm raised concerns about hog waste contaminating the nearby Buffalo River.
It’s been determined that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, or ADEQ — missed a step in denying that permit. That missing ste is allowing the public to comment on the issue.
Initially, the ADEQ approved the permit for C & H to continue operating their hog farm — but they reversed that decision after receiving more than 20-thousand public comments.
The ADEQ considered that reversed decision final, but C & H is arguing it was not final, but a reversed decision — or what’s legally called a draft decision.
Jason Henson is President of C & H Hog Farm.
“And the law says if you make a permitting decision change, then you have to have that go back out to public comment again.”
A judge agreed with Henson.
“The ALJ ruled that the ADEQ did not follow the rules and regulations that they were supposed to follow on denying the permit,” said Henson, “So, his recommendations to the P C & E committee is that it be remanded back to the ADEQ and have them redo it.”
But, will allowing public comments work in favor of the hog farm this time around?
Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, thinks not.
“I think the biggest difference it makes is it’s a delaying tactic,” Watkins said, “I think that just.. because..meanwhile, they’re allowed to continue operating…continue spreading waste on a permit that’s been expired for two years now.”
All in all, Watkins admits they can’t prove beyond a shadow of doubt that C & H is actually contaminating the Buffalo River.
“No there’s not a direct smoking gun that’s going to attribute that impairment directly to C & H,” said Watkins.
However, he believes it’s something the state can prove.
“There is technology out there that’s available and would be able to make those determinations,” Watkins said, “But the state seems at every turn to avoid having to do that.”
The issue will go before the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, or P C & E, on August the 24th.