Several citizens and organizations commented on an increased fear of diseases stemming from pollution related to hog farming in the area at the first of two meetings held by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on proposed changes to three general animal operations permits.
A large group of citizens gathered to comment at the Feb. 19 Kenansville meeting focused on the swine general permit, the cattle general permit and the wet poultry general permit.
Several at the meeting spoke out against industry regulations, while “an unbroken string” of Wilmington residents on hand raised pollution-based concerns. Several commenters specifically brought up concerns regarding the quality of their water and a desire for clearer reporting and transparency from the industry, so they would know what is going in their water.
Crystal Coast livestock keeper Larry Baldwin said at the meeting that the “DEQ has not been acting in ‘good faith’ in the permit process.”
Will Hendrick, of grassroots clean water network Waterkeeper Alliance, was one of many speakers at the meeting who called for “stricter reporting and transparency for swine operations.”
“If you’re compliant with your permit, then you have nothing to hide,” Hendrick said at the meeting.
The general swine, cattle and wet poultry permits are put up for renewal every five years.
The permit process also includes a 30-day comment period, the DEQ said in its statement. Comments can be submitted until Monday, March 4 via email or by mail to NC Division of Water Resources, 1636 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1636.
The DEQ said drafts of the swine, cattle and wet poultry permits can be viewed on its website at https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/water-resources/water-quality-regional-operations/afo. This site also includes examples of annual reports and gives facts related to the permits.
The second meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Statesville Civic Center in Statesville.