Every five years, the officials with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality revisit the permitting regulations for hog waste management.
A public hearing on the draft proposed permit for the next five-year cycle, which will take effect next year, will take place on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Sampson County Exposition Center in Clinton. DEQ officials will consider this public input before they release the final draft permit early next year, said Megan Thorpe, a spokesperson with the department.
The proposed draft permit for the next five-year cycle includes new rules, such as mandatory groundwater monitoring when contamination has occurred. Because the hog waste ponds are unlined, pollutants can seep into the groundwater, said Katy Langley-Hunt, the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper.
“In the rural areas where these facilities are, and all of these cesspools are, their neighbors, a vast majority of them are on well water," Langley-Hunt said. "They’re getting their water supply from the groundwater table that is also likely interacting with these big waste ponds.”
Langley-Hunt says she and other riverkeepers want groundwater requirements to remain in the permit when its finalized.
The proposed draft permit also establishes a threshold on the amount of phosphorous in soil where hog waste is sprayed. Langley-hunt says officials should lower the recommended phosphorous limits because too much of the nutrient running off into the region's waterways contributes to algae blooms, which can lead to fish kills.
“More research has been done, and it’s showing that we need to lower the amount of phosphorous that’s introduced in the environment through land-applying animal waste,” Langley-Hunt said.
Update: The public can email comments on the draft permit to email@example.com. NC DEQ officials request emails include "Swine General Permit" in the subject line. The department is accepting comments by mail at the following address: DWR Animal Operations, Attn: Swine General Permit, 1636 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699. The public comment period is open until Dec. 21. For questions, call 919-707-9141.