Advocacy group ranks Neuse, Cape Fear rivers as endangered
Posted April 11
Updated April 12
Raleigh, N.C. — Two North Carolina rivers were ranked among the top 10 most endangered rivers in the country for the second year in a row when this year's study was released Tuesday morning.
American Rivers ranked the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers the No. 7 most endangered because of the number of hog and chicken farms located in the rivers' flood plains. Roughly 4 million North Carolinians get their drinking water from the rivers.
The group says its report "is not a list of the most polluted rivers in the country" but instead "is a list of rivers at a crossroads or tipping point."
The potential for damage was seen during Hurricane Matthew when more than 140 swine and poultry barns and a dozen open pits holding hog waste flooded. The flooding forced millions of gallons of raw animals waste into both of the rivers.
Pollution in the rivers could be seen in Smithfield and as far south as Fayetteville.
A number of hog facilities were removed after the flood, but more than 100 still remain in flood plains.
The North Carolina Pork Council, a nonprofit that represents the pork industry, said the report targets industrial agriculture, but the largest threat comes from large municipalities.
"The American Rivers advocacy report is not an honest assessment of the most impaired waters in North Carolina," the group said in a statement. "This year, it is part of a coordinated campaign aimed at unfairly attacking North Carolina agriculture and livestock farmers."
Contrary to the American Rivers report, the Pork Council said hog farmers survived Hurricane Matthew with minimal flooding, saying 99.5 percent of lagoons were not affected.
Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr said he hopes being on the list will spread awareness about the potential threats to the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers and encourage state lawmakers to fund a flood plain buyout program.
The Pork Council stated it "will continue to engage in productive conversations about a possible voluntary buyout program."