The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Animal Feeding Operations Program regulates animal operations.
These include swine, cattle, horses and liquid waste treatment system poultry. The program has established siting requirements for application setbacks from property boundaries and perennial streams since 1992.
The DEQ website says our state “has the strongest permit program for concentrated animal feeding operations in the country and is one of the only states that requires annual inspections of every facility.” A link to the requirements is online at deq.nc.gov.
According to The Associated Press, Smithfield Foods hasn’t changed the dominant method of hog waste disposal since hog operations multiplied in the state in the 1980s and 1990s. The practice involves housing thousands of hogs together, flushing their waste into holding pits, allowing bacteria to break down the material, then spraying the effluent onto fields with agricultural spray guns.
Lagoons and spray fields are allowed by state regulations that get renewed every five years.
The Texas lawyer representing plaintiffs in nuisance lawsuits says Smithfield doesn’t change the method here because pork productions costs are lower than in China, where the conglomerate WH Group is headquartered. Murphy-Brown, the named defendant in the lawsuits, is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, which is a part of WH Group, the largest pork producer in the world.
In Missouri, Smithfield Foods has started covering its waste pits. There, the waste is dripped onto fields from low-mounted hoses on tractors.
Duke University’s Office of Sustainability has partnered with several entities, including through grants, to turn hog waste into energy at Loyd Ray Farms in Yadkinville. The 8,600-head feeder-to-finish operation, Duke’s website says, flushes hog waste into an in-ground lined and covered anaerobic digester that produces and captures biogas.
The biogas “power a 65-kilowatt microturbine with excess beyond this capacity diverting to the system’s flare, during times of high biogas production. From the digester, the liquid waste flows to an open-air basin where the wastewater is aerated to reduce the concentrations of ammonia and other remaining pollutants so that it can be reused to flush the barns maintaining healthy populations of good microbial communities,” the website says.
Duke says it “reduces odor and soil toxicity, potentially increasing surrounding property values.”
Smithfield’s 2016 Sustainability Report includes information about its project in Missouri turning manure from 2 million pigs on nine of its hog farms into renewable gas.