State News

Illegal pollution by hog farm leads to wetlands preservation money

Posted July 25, 2012

— Restitution paid by a North Carolina hog farm operator convicted of illegally dumping waste into a Columbus County creek will be used to buy and preserve wetlands in southeast North Carolina.

Clarkton-based Freedman Farms Inc. was found guilty in February of dumping 324,000 gallons of untreated hog waste into Browder's Branch, a tributary to the Waccamaw River, in December 2007. William "Barry" Freedman, who operates the 4,800-hog farm, pleaded guilty to violating the federal Clean Water Act.

"We're talking about hog waste – feces, urine – going directly into a waterway," Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said at a news conference Wednesday.

Environmental crews were able to recover only 169,000 gallons of waste from Browder's Branch and surrounding waterways, Moreno said.

"The rest of that is in the environment, and that is significant," she said.

Officials said the pollution could have tainted groundwater and drinking water in the region and threatened area wildlife.

Senior U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan ordered Freedman Farms to pay $1 million in restitution – $200,000 a year for five years – and fined the company another $500,000.

 Ignacia Moreno Wetlands to benefit from restitution in pollution case

U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker said Wednesday that all of the restitution will go to the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust for preservation efforts.

Camilla Herlevich, executive director of the land trust, called the Waccamaw River "unique and wild."

"Its watershed includes some of the most extensive cypress gum swamps in the state, and its headwaters at Lake Waccamaw contain fish that are found nowhere else on Earth," Herlevich said in a statement. "We look forward to using these funds for conservation projects in a river system that is one of our top conservation priorities."

Flanagan also directed $75,000 of the $500,000 fine to the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network, which will train law enforcement officers across eastern North Carolina to investigate environmental crimes.

Freedman was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement in the case.


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  • Krimson Jul 26, 2012

    "Anyone ever noticed that it's always the Feds who prosecute these cases? Mildot"

    Have you ever wondered why they call it The FEDERAL Clean Water Act?

    Thank you for making my day...

  • piene2 Jul 25, 2012

    "Anyone ever noticed that it's always the Feds who prosecute these cases?

    Have you ever wondered why they call it The FEDERAL Clean Water Act?

  • miseem Jul 25, 2012

    This kind of ties to the "stink" about EPA flights over farms in the mid-west. Without some means to discover and penalize dumping of wastes into waterways, violators will consistently take the easy way out - just dump it.

  • storchheim Jul 25, 2012

    dwntwnboy, meet W.C. Fields.


  • drjones74 Jul 25, 2012

    The concentration and toxicity of hog waste probably killed everything in the water for some length. Sure it does eventually get "naturally" cleaned up, but if every hog and chicken farm just let it dump straight into streams you'd have an absolute disaster on your hands. Completely dead rivers that you would not want your cows to drink out of, or your town to be pulling drinking water from.....

  • wayneboyd Jul 25, 2012

    Everybody likes country han sausage and grilled pork chops but....nobody wants to smell the hog pen. You can't have one without the other.

  • storchheim Jul 25, 2012

    " Government should initiate some partnership to help the farmers."

    Tell me why I should pay for this. Or did you mean that parallel govt that works for free? Let the farmers observe the law and if they can't, find another line of work. We already subsidize them too much.

  • Pepe Silvia Jul 25, 2012

    lizard, here is the funny thing about nature... if left alone, it balances itself out pretty well... bacteria clean up after the fish and turtles and wildlife. A "errant dear or bear" is not dumping (pun intended) 324,000 gallons of waste into the water.

  • lizard Jul 25, 2012

    "would YOU eat one of them after finding out what they've been swimming in?"

    And what makes you think that what they're swimming in is all that pure to begin with? And was it ever pure? Do you know what the fish and turtles do to each other in these "pure" waters? I don't eat raw fish anyway. I try not to think of what they may have swam by as an errant deer or bear meanders by, etc.

  • rachel Jul 25, 2012

    why not make the punishment fit the crime? Have him personally clean it all up- with a spoon, his toothbrush and a mini strainer.