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Hog Farm Contamination of the Buffalo National River Watershed

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Southwest Paddlers who have ever floated the Buffalo National River ... or if it’s on your "bucket list" - your voice and action to protect this beautiful river is needed NOW!

Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers - an Arkansas non-profit 501(c)(3) - all-volunteer watershed protection organization, and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Trout Unlimited and many other conservation organizations are fighting NOW to halt a high-handed attempt by legislators to circumvent due process in an appeal concerning a hog farm ... no longer a family farm, but a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) owned by a Brazilian conglomerate that does not live here and is not impacted by its operations along the banks of the beautiful Buffalo National River.

If you’re from out-of-state, then your tourism and recreation dollars make a difference to Governor Asa Hutchison - write to him at to express your concerns. Your contact can be crucial to protecting the country’s first national river for everyone. HELP STOP bad legislation from becoming law.

What’s this all about? It is about a hog farm polluting the Buffalo!

C&H Hog Farms is owned by Jason Henson, Philip Campbell and Richard Campbell and operates near Mount Judea in Newton County. It's in the Buffalo National River watershed, along Big Creek, about 6 miles from where the creek feeds into the Buffalo River. The farm has a permit to house 6,503 hogs at any given time and includes two storage ponds for hog manure and fields where hog manure is spread as fertilizer.

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) was formed to prevent pollution of the Buffalo National River watershed through monitoring, advocacy, and public policy initiatives to promote environmentally responsible development and agriculture. It, the Ozark Society and the Arkansas Canoe Club are principles in the fight to rid that watershed of the C&H Hog Farm.

Posted By Max Brantley on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 6:21 PM:

BRWA, which is pressing the case against a hog factory feeding operation in the watershed of the national river, objects to the hog farm's request to be allowed to continue operating despite failing to meet regulatory requirements.

On January 10, 2018, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) issued its long-awaited decision denying the C&H Hog Farms application for a new Regulation 5 No-Discharge permit.

A letter to the owners from Robert E. Blanz, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s chief technical officer, details specific reasons for denying their insufficient permit application.

The application does not contain a groundwater flow study around the facility’s waste lagoons, which is necessary due to the environmentally sensitive location (karst ecosystem) ... and no emergency action plan is written. The application fails to present the required geologic investigation of both waste lagoons, does not comply with required technical geologic investigation of lagoon berms, and there are significant issues with the lagoon liners. Finally, the compaction test and permeability analysis fail to comply with accepted agency standards and there is insufficient assessment of high-risk areas of the waste application sites such as soil thickness and water capacity. In general, ADEQ said there wasn't enough information to justify disposal methods for huge amounts of hog waste in ponds over the limestone subsurface that could allow leakage of waste into the Buffalo River.

The denial means the farm must shut down, but it has asked for a stay of the decision. The appeal could take months, or even years, the Alliance says. The Alliance opposes a stay for a permit that expired more than a year ago. It favors a phase-out of hog farm operations. If a stay is granted, it said, C and H should post a substantial bond sufficient to mitigate any potential damage from hog waste.

C&H announces they will appeal and have filed a motion with the Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology for a Stay of ADEQ’s decision, which would allow the swine facility to continue operations throughout the appeal process, which could last months or even years.

BRWA has filed an opposition to this stay and asks that C&H be required to begin phasing out operations now. C&H has been operating with an expired permit for over a year and, following the recent comment period, was granted 100 days to provide ADEQ with additional information necessary to complete their technical review. C&H failed to do so. More than enough time has passed and C&H should not be allowed to continue spreading raw waste in the Buffalo River watershed. If a stay is granted C&H should be required to post a substantial bond, sufficient to mitigate any damage that might occur during the appeals process and to assure that financial resources exist to close operations promptly when appeals are exhausted.

In addition, BRWA urges the ADEQ Director to take immediate steps to implement a permanent moratorium on any new permits for swine CAFOs in the Buffalo National River watershed. C&H claims to be the most closely monitored CAFO in the state, if not the nation. If so, and this operation does not qualify for a permit, none will. So why continue a temporary moratorium? The time is now to provide the Buffalo National River with the permanent protection it deserves.

Here’s where we are now: Preserving the Factory posted by Mike Masterson on March 4, 2018 at 1:49 a.m.


A draft bill likely to be filed as early as Monday and heard in special session, if two-thirds of our legislators support it would, in effect, neuter the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and establish a law preserving C&H Hog Farms in the Buffalo National River watershed.

The proposal, being actively pushed by the Farm Bureau, also declares an emergency because owners of the swine factory at Mount Judea were confused and their livelihood jeopardized by the requirements for transferring their existing general permit to an individual permit, which the state agency denied last month.

The somewhat confusing (to me) draft, if accepted for action this week, then passed in special session and signed by the governor, in my view fails to meaningfully distinguish between the factory's general permit granted in 2012 and the denied individual no-discharge permit. This piece of phenomenally bad legislation basically would invalidate the denial and allow the swine factory to transfer from one permit to another with no questions asked.

The primary difference is general permits today are pretty much one size fits all with few, if any, meaningful site-specific considerations, while individual permits are specifically tailored to a site like C&H.

In C&H's case, no staff geologist investigated water flow or subsurface characteristics in the karst-laden Buffalo watershed or around the factory before the general permit was issued. In switching to an individual permit, as C&H had requested, relevant environmental risks to the national river were considered for the first time.

In essence, this draft bill would not only eliminate that safeguard, but there would be no Department of Environmental Quality review allowed, no public comment period, and no possibility for appeal. In other words, once a facility has been sited even under a broad general permit, it basically would need nothing further.

The proposal specifically says any action taken by a director that has the effect of terminating a permittee's authority to operate under a general permit before an individual permit is issued would be void.

Yet another deeply concerning section appears to create a statute of limitations for challenging a permit. If I understand correctly, C&H could no longer be legally challenged on anything prior to 2013, such as the 2012 permit issuance.

Section 3 is the emergency clause that covers facilities in the process of trying to transfer from one permit type to another. These are changes many believe will dramatically affect all future permitting. The driving force behind the proposal, because of its wording, timing and aggressive lobbying efforts, I believe clearly constitutes a piece of special legislation designed specifically to benefit a single enterprise.

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance responded: "This is clearly a major change to the Arkansas legal code to accommodate a single ill-sited operation. It has the fingerprints of special interests' influence all over it. There is simply no other reason to circumvent standard due process ... "

A portion of the draft also says when a facility's owners or operators obtain rights to operate under a general permit or an individual permit, all decisions are final and not subject to review in subsequent administrative or judicial actions. Wow! Sounds like the obvious neutering of Environmental Quality's public oversight responsibilities; all this to benefit one misplaced swine factory.

Part of special interests' spiel to sell this bad idea to farmers and legislators is a scare tactic that says the denial of C&H's individual permit in its specific environmentally sensitive location would open the door to similar actions against factory farms elsewhere. That slippery slope argument is nonsense.

One account in the Arkansas Times said Gov. Asa Hutchinson "has reportedly acquiesced to the hog farm decision override in a special session if the backers can demonstrate two-thirds support, the vote needed to broaden the call of a special session."

Meanwhile, a news story the other day reported the Joint Budget Committee advanced a proposal that would increase spending authority for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture under auspices of its Big Creek Research and Extension Team to continue performing water-quality studies in the Buffalo watershed until 2022, with funding increased from $100,000 to $200,000.

The studies will be continued on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality. The Agriculture Division will report the results and progress of these studies to legislative committees. How reassuring is that?

It's a sad deal for Arkansas when the state's top attraction that can't lobby and offer political contributions or steak dinners and drinks faces such a potential threat from our very own legislators, of all people.

So personally contact your House and Senate legislators (, the governor at (501) 682-2345, and by Monday, March 5, 2018, or as soon thereafter as possible since this move (surprise!) has happened quickly and quietly, and timing is critical. Your contact yet again has become crucial to protect the country's first national river for everyone. If you care, ask them not to sign onto such bad legislation.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at
Editorial on 03/04/2018

For additional information please visit these related websites:

Buffalo River Watershed

Save the Buffalo - Again

Friends of the Rivers joins other conservation organizations in fully supporting private property rights and appropriate scale farming. Industrial scale operations such as C&H are inappropriate in sensitive karst regions near Extraordinary Resource Waters like the Buffalo National River. Property rights end at the fencerow and C&H’s rights do not outweigh those of neighbors dependent on clean groundwater or those of hundreds of small family-owned businesses dependent upon a clean Buffalo National River for their livelihoods.

This article was compiled and submitted by Jane Darr on behalf of Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers for the benefit of all who live along, recreate on or derive water from the Buffalo National River of Arkansas and its watershed.

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