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Vigil takes aim at hog waste lagoons

Posted June 17, 2008

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— North Carolina has more than 3,000 hog lagoons. Opponents say the lagoons foul up the air and water supply. In protest, they started a 51-hour vigil Tuesday to raise awareness about what they say is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Groups from Eastern North Carolina will be gathered on the Halifax Lawn in front of the legislative building until 6 p.m. Thursday.

Their message is that factory hog farming continues to threaten state rivers, streams and coastal waters. They also say Gov. Mike Easley, who they say pledged to rid the state of lagoon and spray systems, and the General Assembly have failed to protect North Carolinians.

An huge spill in 1995 brought attention to hog farming. That is when a lagoon in Onslow County overflowed, dumping 20 million gallons of hog waste. The spill caused fish kills in the New River.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused hog lagoons to overflow and contaminate the water supply. The Governor's Office responded by saying that no public official had done more than Easley to protect the environment and work towards better hog farm operations.

Under traditional hog farming methods, hogs waste is flushed into lagoons where solids settles. Bacteria breaks down the solids and liquid waste is sprayed onto grass fields as fertilizer, sometimes contaminating streams.

The expansion of large scale hog operations is permanently prohibited and a spokesperson said North Carolina is transitioning its hog farms with new environmentally-desirable technology.

In 1999, former Gov. Jim Hunt called for a 10-year program to eliminate hog lagoons in North Carolina. The last report on state hog lagoons puts the total at more than 3,800, with 550 of those abandoned.

Since Hunt's call to clean up hog farming, the state has only dented those numbers. However, lawmakers did pass a new law years ago that banned new hog lagoons.

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