Note: After this story was published, the NC Department of Environmental Quality removed the public database from the agency’s website “for maintenance,” such as correcting a few longitude and latitude figures. However, the database did contain phone numbers for some of the affected swine farms. A DEQ spokeswoman said the database would be reinstated soon, possibly by the end of the week.
Update: As of Thursday, Sept. 27, the database has been reposted online.
Days after Hurricane Florence devastated eastern North Carolina, fourth-generation hog farmer Brandon Howard had to figure out how to remove “large numbers” of dead pigs from a nearby swamp.
Two of the hog houses at Howard’s 3,200-head farm in Onslow County had been engulfed by floodwaters; two others were half full. Howard “was working with the [Department of Agriculture] to get the hogs out of the swamp by air,” read notes from the state Department of Environmental Quality. “He has folks out trying to capture hogs that are roaming.”
At least 5,500 hogs died during Hurricane Florence. More than 100 swine waste lagoons have sustained damage, flooded, breached or nearly breached since the historic storm hit on Sept. 14, and now it’s known where some of them are.
A public but little-known DEQ map and database lists every hurricane-related incident –wastewater treatment overflows, coal ash spills, petroleum and other hazardous material releases reported and/or investigated by the agency and its regional offices. (Policy Watch found the information via mappingsupport.com,which provides a full list of available state environmental databases.)
Although most of the hog farm incidents are simple entries, a few contain anecdotes that can only hint at the anguish and panic of losing lives and property.
As the lagoon began to fill at Ronnie Jarman’s farm, the power went out. He had no more room in his dead box for drowned hogs. And while he has a refrigerated box, it couldn’t function without electricity.
The hog houses at the Scott Farm, also in Onslow, lost their roofs, the notes read, “and it’s still raining. He needs help with fixing the roof so it will stop putting more water into the lagoons” — which flows from the houses that normally hold up to 3,800 pigs. “He’s unable to find somewhere to get a tarp.”
Farm workers were also in peril. At A&P South Farms, both lagoons overtopped. Employees had to be rescued by kayak.
Here is a partial list of lagoon breaches, discharges and flooding that were listed in the database, plus their counties. In the original table, Policy Watch incorrectly listed the wrong Strickland Farm in Wayne County. The table has been changed to reflect the correct Strickland Farm in Sampson County.
[table id=42 /]
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