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Recent Rains Have Hog Farmers, State Keeping Close Eye On Lagoon Levels

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JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — Since Hurricane Floyd, hog farmers have not worried too much about their lagoons overflowing. An already wet spring has state inspectors watching more closely.

"We're required to keep rainfall records. So each week I have to record the lagoon level, the amount of freeboard in each lagoon, as well as the rainfall that's occurred on that site," said Whitley Stephenson, a Johnston County hog producer.

The state requires the reports from farms that have waste lagoons.

Whitley said he knows how much rain has fallen on each of his farms, and a lot of rain has been falling this year.

"We try to plan in advance for rainfall events like we've had," he said.

Despite the rain, the

North Carolina Department of Natural Resources

shows a decrease in the number of farm lagoons with high levels of liquid or freeboard in its latest report.

State officials said many farms have taken measures to reduce the level of waste in their lagoons.

Stephenson said his lagoons are designed for 180 days of storage, including rain events. The gauge in his lagoon is a PCV pipe. The top of the pipe to the first peg is the 19-inch required freeboard or safety zone. On his farm, the level is well within the safety zone.

"As you can see, this lagoon has got 19 inches plus approximately 10 inches more than the required state level," he said.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been flying over farms inspecting them and taking information for citizen groups. Right now, it is keeping an extra close eye on about 350 animal waste lagoons with what it calls "high levels."


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