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Inspectors Find Hog Waste Leaking into Durham's Water Supply

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BEAVER CREEK — AnOrange Countyhog farm is temporarily closed. The state says the Beaver Creek Farm cannot reopen until it cleans up its act.

Regulators found waste leaking from a lagoon into a tributary ofLake Michie, one ofDurham County's main water sources.

"We saw dark water - water that had waste characteristics such as odor and color - entering into an unnamed tributary into Byrd's Creek, which feeds into a water supply," says Charles Alvarez, a N.C. water quality inspector.

Hog farms are under tight scrutiny recently because of runoff polluting the state's rivers and streams. Still, only six operations have been closed for serious violations. However, the situation at the Orange County farm was so bad the state decided to take decisive action.

Inspectors were not cordially greeted when they visited Fred McPherson's hog farm Wednesday.

"We had a sheriff's deputy there to serve the inspection warrants," Alverez said. "At that time, he said he did not know what would happen if the sheriff's deputy was not there, like he would have done something to me."

The tension arose because Inspector Alvarez and his partner found enough violations on the farm to convince a judge to close it. The violations included lagoons full of hog waste at dangerously high levels.

"There's a possibility that the top of the dam may start leaking, or may give way," Alvarez said.

Inspectors also found hog waste flowing to a tributary that feeds right into Lake Michie, part of Durham County's water supply.

"We've notified them, and they're going to increase monitoring," says Ernie Seneca, spokesperson for theN.C. Division of Water Quality. "Our understanding is they've switched over to the little river reservoir right now."

So at least temporarily, McPherson's operation, known as Beaver Creek Farm, must cease production and remove its estimated 4,000 hogs. The Division of Water Quality says it has been trying to get McPherson to submit a certified waste management plan for years.

"We've worked with him quite a bit, and quite honestly, frustrated by the overall situation and we've taken this extreme step," Seneca said.

Fred McPherson, the owner of the hog farm, could not be reached for comment. The Division of Water Quality did point out that almost all of North Carolina's 2,500 hog farms have or are close to having certified waste management plans.

Late Wednesday afternoon, test results released indicate fecal coliform counts in the tributary leading to Lake Michie were not as high as feared. They were still above standard.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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