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State Inspectors Keep Eye On Rising Hog Lagoon Levels

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JOHNSTON COUNTY — The rainy weather has state water quality inspectors on their toes. They are keeping an eye on more than 5,000 hog lagoons.

State environmental engineer John Hunt has seen most of the hog lagoons in Johnston, Sampson and Wilson counties. He says they are weathering all the rain so far.

"Everybody is doing well and maintaining their freeboard," Hunt says.

Freeboard is the amount of space between the waste and the rim of the lagoon. The minimum is 19 inches. With the start of hurricane season in North Carolina, farmers want to do all they can to get rid of the waste they are already holding.

This time last year, the ground was soaked in the wake of Hurricane Dennis and Hurricane Floyd. Now, the ground is dramatically drier.

Farmers can lower the level by spraying the waste onto surrounding fields. However, they are not allowed to spray onto wet fields.

"I haven't seen any, what appears to be any, wet fields," Hunt says. "As a compliance officer, I'm very glad to note that."

The state says it will work with growers in dire straits, as long as they are honest about their situation.

"We function in two ways; technical assistance: advice, help -- that kind of avenue," says Ernie Seneca of the North CarolinaDivision of Water Quality. "We also have the enforcement if need be."

Most areas need to dry out for a week or so before farmers can start spraying waste on fields. Many farmers have already pumping equipment set up to begin lowering lagoon levels as soon as possible.

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Brian Bowman, Reporter
Brian Bowman, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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