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Greene County Hog Farmer Works Hard To Stay Within Wastewater Rules

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GREENE COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina hogs produce 19 million tons of waste a year. That is more than 50,000 tons every day.

That waste is emptied into lagoons and fields. The process is unpleasant on an ordinary day. Add in a ton of rain, and there is potential for a huge mess.

So far this year, the state has cited 97 farmers for not reporting problems with lagoons or spraying. One local farmer said he is doing all he can to stay within the rules.

Chuck Stokes takes advantage of a break in the weather at his hog farm in Greene County. He finally can spray some of the wastewater that is dangerously high in his lagoons.

"We're in a horrible position," Stokes said. "We have never been in this position before, other than in Hurricane Floyd."

Stokes said storms have dumped two years' worth of rain here in the last year. The rain has filled the waste lagoons, and Stokes said there are no easy solutions.

"This has taken nine months to ge to this point," Stokes said. "It will take me the better part of two years to pump this water out."

The state requires hog farmers to maintain the lagoons by spraying the wastewater on growing fields. Many farmers' fields are now so saturated that more spraying could lead to runoff and environmental damage.

In the last three weeks, Stokes has put up 18 miles of fences and changed some fields into cow pastures, where farmers can spray year round. This switch will help a little, but it is not cheap.

"The better part of $80,000 on my operation," he said, "which I have no idea where that money's coming from."

Stokes said he would like to see new approaches to dealing with hog waste, using modern technology. The state is moving in that direction, but, as each storm passes, Stokes wonders if the changes will come soon enough.

North Carolina's hog population has grown faster than any state in the nation.

It swelled from 2.6 million in 1987 to 10 million today. That is an increase of 285 percent.


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