Comment Period Extended for River Assessment

Comment Period Extended for River Assessment

Citizens concerned about pollution regarding the C&H Hog Farm near Big Creek in Mt. Judea, Ark., have a little more time to raise their concerns about the recent environmental assessment by two federal agencies of the facility.

Courtesy Photo Dr. Brahana checks a dye sample on the Buffalo River to observe the flow of ground water near the C&H Hog Farm fertilizer spray fields to the Buffalo River.

Courtesy Photo
Dr. Brahana checks a dye sample on the Buffalo River to observe the flow of ground water near the C&H Hog Farm fertilizer spray fields to the Buffalo River.

The Buffalo River Coalition claim the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) assessment fails to consider the C&H hog facility’s impacts on water resources, air emissions, and on the public health and quality of life of the Mt. Judea community and the nearby Buffalo National River. However, the hog facility has been approved for all necessary permits by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to operate.

The deadline has been extended to Jan. 29 for the public to send their comments by mail to: C&H Hog Farms EA, c/o Cardno, Inc., 501 Butler Farm Road, Suite H, Hampton, VA 23666, and by email at:

“From our viewpoint, we’re stunned at some of the things they found in environmental assessment and determination of FONSI is really unbelievable,” said Dane Shumacher, a board member of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. “It’s important for people to weigh in because at this stage in the game they can still be influenced and hopefully take the road of doing further investigation.”

The hog facility, five miles from the edge of the Buffalo River and nearby to the Mt. Judea school, was approved by the ADEQ in 2011 to house 6,503 pigs in 2,500 pens. An animal facility of that size is called a Confined Animal Feeding Operation or CAFO. The facility was built in 2013, and many residents nearby were unaware it was being built until it was nearly complete. Laws have since been improved to provide better notice to nearby residents of such facilities.

The manure beneath the pig pens is transferred to a waste lagoon that’s rated to hold about 2 million gallons of raw sewage annually, or about the amount of waste a city of 30,000 people creates. From there, trucks pump the waste into holding tanks and drive out to 600 acres of pasture to spray the waste out into the fields as a fertilizing method, called a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) as allowed by state permit. However, half of the field lies nearby in the floodplain of Big Creek, which is a river that empties into the Buffalo River. Airborne waste emissions polluting the air nearby Mt. Judea inhabitants breathe in are also a concern.

The fields that are used to spray the waste to fertilize the fields are believed to be located atop karst geology — which means the land has a thin topsoil above very porous rocky (in this case limestone) ground — and would be unable to handle the amount of nutrient spray to properly filter the toxic bacteria from the manure in the soil. In a karst environment, ground water moves rapidly alongside surface water, and can be difficult to predict how and where it flows. So, there is concern that the waste being sprayed near Big Creek could seep into the ground water and pollute the Buffalo River, which is a federally preserved river.

In the FONSI environmental assessment, the two agencies that conducted it, the Small Business Association and Farm Service Agency, denied that the hog farm and its NMP fields sit atop karst geology.

John Van Brahana, a retired University of Arkansas geology professor and karst expert, explained in a letter to the ADEQ that they only considered surface water in their first environmental assessment. In a karst environment, often times surface and ground water run together because of the porous nature of the underground limestone.

“I know of no active karst consultant who recommends that a CAFO be sited on karstified limestone, particularly upgradient from so sensitive a natural resource as the Buffalo National River, with its direct-contact use by canoeists, fishermen, and swimmers,” Brahana wrote in the letter.

Brahana is currently conducting dye studies to observe the flow of water near the C&H spray fields.

Courtesy Photo The Buffalo River was designated as America’s first national river in 1972 thanks to efforts by former congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt.

Courtesy Photo
The Buffalo River was designated as America’s first national river in 1972 thanks to efforts by former congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt.

Additionally, more than 70 scientific studies and papers have documented the health dangers to human life and the environment around CAFO facilities. Most notably, a 2008 study by Pew Institute — a non-partisan think tank — compiled data on health CAFOs regarding public health, environment and animal welfare and concluded that such operations need to be phased out due to their adverse effects.

“This is a travesty, it should never have been permitted. There’s a lot of stuff being put to light, but right now people need to make their comments for the record,” said Ginny Masullo, a member of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. “We have to as citizens. Our governmental bodies aren’t doing the protections we need. If we don’t make them do it, it’s not going to get done.”

The Buffalo River’s water is regarded as pristine. The river flows for over 150 uninterrupted miles through the Ozarks. On March 1, 1972, Arkansas’s Buffalo River was named the first national river in the United States. It was slated to be dammed up back in the 1960s. After years of work by conservationists like Neil Compton and Ken Smith, it is now one of the few free-flowing rivers in the continental U.S.

In 2014, the National Park Service reported that 1.3 million visitors annually spend $56.6 million in the gateway communities surrounding the national park.

Upcoming Buffalo River Events

  • Buffalo River Trivia Event – Thursday, Jan. 21, Teresa Turk will be hosting a Buffalo River trivia event at Core Brewery in Fayetteville starting at 7:00 p.m. Prizes will be awarded and 10 percent of the proceeds from that night go to the Buffalo National River. Contact Teresa Turk,
  • Cargill Film Showing – Tuesday, Jan. 26. A showing of the film about Cargill made by the French videographers and the one of Neil Compton’s old movies. A then and now sort of perspective. At Ozark Society Highlands Chapter meeting. Contact Teresa Turk,
  • Week of Earth Day – Wednesday, April 20, Still on the Hill with music form upcoming CD “Still a River” and Van Brahana of the Karst Hydrogeology of the Buffalo National River, presenting Science for the River. Contact: Ginny Masullo,
Categories: Legacy Archive