Local News

Proposed Bill Would Eliminate Hog Lagoons

Posted May 21, 2003 12:20 p.m. EDT

— The stink over hog waste is heating up again.

A bill to ban the use of hog waste lagoons and sprayfields is before the Legislature. It would set a firm date to end the lagoon debate.

North Carolina is home to 3000 hog lagoons. They hold hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic waste, which is then sprayed on farm fields.

The process is extremely controversial.

"Lagoons are designed to pollute," said Michelle Nowlin, an environmental lawyer. "They are designed to leech their waste into the soil, percolating down into ground water. They are designed to emit pollutatns into the air."

That has driven Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham to sponsor a bill to ban hog lagoons in the state.

"If we can bring this bill forward, and we put a deadline on it," Luebke said, "I believe the technology will be there, and I believe the pork industry will respond to it."

Luebke said he wants all hog lagoons gone by 2008. North Carolina's Attorney General and hog companies are already working with North Carolina State University to find lagoon alternatives.

"It is exceptionally difficult," said Dr. Mike Williams of N.C. State. "We have been through a tremendous learning curve."

Williams said the process is behind, but making progress: Eighteen different technologies are being reviewed -- everything from using flies to compost the waste, to capturing it under plastic and using the gases it produces.

But some environmentalists say the search for a solution isn't moving fast enough.

"Hundreds of lagoons throughout the coastal plain can not manage their waste," Nowlin said, "and instead of slowing production or finding legal means to dispose of their waste, they are dumping it into our coastal waters."

Williams said he's confident a workable way to handle the toxic hog waste will be found before the proposed deadline. He warned that once the new technology is identified, it still could take years to get up and running on every farm in the state.