MT. JUDEA, Ark. – The controversial C&H hog farm in Mt. Judea, Arkansas has passed another environmental assessment.
Last year, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) conducted a series of drilling tests below one of the farm’s waste ponds.
The results found no pollution – the same conclusion of a test conducted in 2015 by two groups that loaned funds for the hog farm’s construction in the Buffalo River watershed.
“My wife and I, if we want to go hiking, and we have enough time to drive a little ways, the Buffalo watershed is where we end up,” says Ozarks Water Watch director, David Casaletto.
Casaletto’s group focuses on bodies of water in the White River watershed – lakes like Beaver, Table Rock and Bull Shoals.
While the Buffalo River isn’t in his “jurisdiction,” so to speak, he keeps a close eye on what’s happening in the area. Recently, the attention has been focused on the 6000-head hog farm located near Big Creek.
“That tributary to the Buffalo is probably one of the most heavily monitored sites, probably almost in the nation,” he says.
The farm’s waste ponds sit about 2000-feet away from Big Creek and have sparked considerable controversy over the last three years. Environmental groups worry the farm’s proximity to the water –combined with the topography of the area — could result in waste running into the popular watershed.
The most recent chapter is the result of ground scanning tests in 2016 that noticed an “abnormality” located below one of the waste ponds.
“It was determined that the next step or appropriate step would be to go ahead and do an investigation through a driller,” says ADEQ director, Becky Keogh.
“It did provide some clarity that the moisture being seen in that image was a deep zone of ground water between 100- and 120-feet,” she says, “and the chemistry proved that.”
A study from 2015 found that many aspects of the hog farm were built beyond required environmental standards, including the lining of the two waste ponds.
“Everybody should be concerned to see if something is wrong there,” says Casaletto, “but as far as it can assert, they followed all the rules.”
The remaining question for some environmentalists is the possibility and probability of pollution in the future, such as during a 50- or 100-year rain event, but Casaletto says that’s a challenge faced by waste facilities across the area.
“What I’ve told people from the beginning, if the laws and the rules need to be changed [to not permit farm near the Buffalo], then that’s what we need to do,” he says.
The study in 2015 determined during the course of a major rain event the environmental impact would be minimal, due to plant life soaking up the nutrients.
ADEQ says it will continue to monitor the C&H property, as it does with any permitted area.
Read the Environmental Quality report here.