Under the direction of Governor Pat McCrory, state environmental inspectors will begin sampling water quality this week downstream from swine farms. Testing will continue over the next few weeks in areas where floodwaters have started to recede.
“Because of the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew, our environmental inspectors still aren’t able to reach some farms,” said Jay Zimmerman, director of the state water resources division. “Once the water recedes in those areas, we will test the water quality in nearby rivers and streams to ensure we understand any potential impacts to the health of our residents downstream.”
The state environmental department staff received reports from farmers in the hardest hit areas of Wayne, Lenoir, Craven and Green counties along the Neuse River, Robeson county near the Lumber River, and Sampson, Duplin and Bladen counties near the Cape Fear River. After flying over those areas and evaluating all available information, staff determined that 14 lagoons flooded during the record rainfall and one farm had two partial breaches. After Hurricane Floyd in 1999, 55 hog lagoons flooded and six were breached.
“We work with the farmers in advance knowing they are doing everything they can to keep their lagoons in compliance, especially in the case of an emergency like a hurricane,” said Donald R. van der Vaart, secretary of the state environmental department. “In cases like this, our priority is on confirming that lagoons are structurally sound and testing water to ensure that the environment is protected.”
Inspectors collect samples near the source of the discharge, upstream, and downstream to monitor for contaminants. If levels fail to meet regulations due to mismanagement the state will notify farmers, who typically have ten days to respond with measures they have taken to stop the discharge.