5000 hogs make as much waste as a small town like Harrison, so it made for an interesting situation when a HOG CAFO appeared a few miles away in Mt. Judea.
The Cerrell Report, a study done in the ’80’s but still true today, suggests that industry and government often look to poor, economically depressed regions, desperate for jobs, with little political influence or power, to site noxious or undesirable industries. Mt. Judea in particular is one of the lowest populated and poorest regions in one of the poorest states in the country. A large percentage of its population lives below the poverty level. Jobs are scarce and wages are low. Ironically, tourism is one of the largest sources of income in Arkansas and the Buffalo River is an economic engine for Newton County and the Ozarks. Despite this fact, the close proximity of this factor farm to the Buffalo River was not considered when its permit was under review by the state.
Instead, this new facility received permission to jam thousands of hogs into two warehouses. Beside the warehouses they placed two open ponds, which they quickly filled with hog waste. Welcome to Poopytown, a factory farm that produces as much waste as the entire town of nearby Harrison, with one major difference: Harrison spends millions of dollars each year to treat its wastewater, while the waste from this CAFO isn’t treated at all. So where does all that waste go?
The CAFO (which stands for “concentrated animal feeding operation”) spreads millions of gallons of untreated liquid hog waste on nearby fields as part of a plan called “Comprehensive Nutrient Management”. The “nutrient” they’re managing? Hog poop. This poop eventually leaches into the ground, which is a problem, because this region is characterized by topography referred to by geologists as “karst”; imagine a shallow topsoil layer over a highly porous limestone bedrock interlaced with cracks, sinkholes, caves and underground waterways, all of which make it easy for liquid hog waste to seep into the ground and end up Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo River, which Congress declared its first National River in 1972. Picture 135 miles of one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the United States.
The prospect of factory farms polluting this river led people living in the Ozarks to create the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. Working with data collected by scientists and with the support of respected figures in their community, these activists began a campaign to oppose the proliferation of factory farms not only in their community, but across the entire state of Arkansas.
“This is a national river. It belongs to the people of the United States. It is a treasure not only to us, but the nation. We live in one of the poorest, least populated counties in the state, and the Buffalo River pumps millions of dollars into our local economy. And this swine CAFO is the first and largest of its kind that was ever permitted in the state of Arkansas and it’s located five miles upstream on a major tributary of the Buffalo River. As people, individuals like myself, became aware of what a huge threat this was, we began to talk. We began to strategize about what we could do not only to stop this one, but to prevent more from coming into the area.”
Buffalo River Watershed Alliance