Thank you for covering the important issue regarding the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's proposal to roll back clean water protections from industrial hog operations. These mega hog operations can produce as much waste as a small city and pollute streams and drinking water supplies. North Carolinians witnessed the devastation that poorly regulated industrial hog operations can have on their water supply. In 1995, a hog waste lagoon failed and spilled more than 20 million gallons of hog waste into the New River killing over 10 million fish and covering more area than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Many other spills occurred in 1995 and in subsequent years, resulting in a moratorium on new and expanded hog operations until better clean water protections were adopted by North Carolina in 2007. Now, North Carolina prohibits new and expanding hog operations with 250 or more hogs from using lagoons and sprayfields as their primary method of waste treatment. Unfortunately, the state waited too long to adopt these restrictions and old lagoons and sprayfields were grandfathered in. These older lagoons and sprayfields are still in use across North Carolina and continue to pollute the state's water resources.
Georgia is now on the verge of repeating the mistakes of our neighbor by rolling back clean water protections. For example, the rollback will allow hog feeding operations with up to 12,500 hogs (up from 7,500 hogs) to use uncovered lagoons and sprayfields for waste disposal. What's more, the proposed rule change will allow industrial hog operations to have up to 12,500 hogs before they are required to demonstrate financial ability to close old sewage ponds. The rule change will also weaken buffers between mega hog operations and neighboring property owners and streams.
The state agency's decision to reduce clean water protections from mega hog operations puts many of Georgia's property owners and river users at unnecessary risk. The only public hearing on this proposed rule change was held in Atlanta in October. The Board of Natural Resources may vote on the proposed rollbacks to clean water regulations at their December 3, 2013 meeting in Mansfield, Ga. Ogeechee Riverkeeper encourages people to contact their Board representative at http://gadnr.org/board?cat=inside_dnr and ask them to oppose these rollbacks.