Nastier than ever

Poop is back on the table. On November 2016, The Technician issued a duel on how to deal with hog waste in NC. Last week, NC lawmakers passed House Bill 467, a bill that limits the damages residents can collect from hog farms. This piece is a follow up to the debate.

When the Technician issued the column duel, two students exposed the social, environmental and economic challenges concerning the issue of hog farming and hog-waste disposal in NC. As we learnt from our correspondents, hog farming is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US and generates millions of dollars in tax revenue that fuel the economy. [1] North Carolina is the second largest hog farming state in the country and is home to more than 2,100 permitted industrial operations and nearly 9 million animals. [2] We also learned that an industry of this scale not only produces pigs in mass, it also produces hog waste, lots of it. In fact, pools of it.

Handling such account of waste is quite literally a dirty business. A 250-pound hog produces 15 pounds of manure a day. Currently, every year, nearly 10 billion gallons of pig feces and urine are stored in over 4,000 lagoons. Enough of the stud to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. But maintaining these pools contained and managing them to guarantee they do not overflow or contaminate nearby waterways has proven difficult.

It is not just major storms like Hurricane Mathew that impose a threat for residents of eastern NC where most hog operations are located. Apparently, it is a common practice for farm operators to empty their cesspools by spraying the liquid waste as crop fertilizer– according to Steve Wing, an associate professor of epidemiology at UNC. [3], [6] This practice constitutes a major environmental and health hazard for residents. The odor alone is apparently bad enough to keep residents from outdoor activities. But the threats of disease outbreaks are even more worrisome and no less obnoxious. The waste can carry E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium and other bacteria that can lead to serious illness or death if they spread to humans. [4]

Nearly 500 residents have brought class suite against the state’s largest producer, and today, there are over 24 lawsuits before a federal court challenging the personal cost of living with the stink from NC’s hog farms. [5]-[6] Obviously, something needs to be done to protect the health of NC residents and the state’s environmental resources.

In the original duel issued by the Technician, Aaron Sanchez called for a reduction on farm activity in the name of wider social and environmental health, while Villegas invoked more government regulation of current farming activities to promote environmentally sound practices. [1], [2]. Sanchez took the position that NC was currently unable to responsibly dispose hog waste because it produced too much of it, while Laura Villegas defended NC legislators actually had various alternative means to get a handle on it. That’s what NC State students thought. But state legislators thought otherwise.

Last week, NC lawmakers passed House Bill 467, a bill that limits the damages residents can collect from hog farms. You read correctly. State legislators, who are supposed to represent and protect the well-being of the common people, chose to represent and protect the interests of ta smaller but more more powerful group: hog farm operators. HB 467 prevents people from recovering damages like those for healthcare bills and pain and suffering. It effectively legalizes the discrimination against residents on the basis of choice of residency, an idea that not only lacks logic but is fundamentally corrupt as it assumes people have full freedom of mobility–a myth about the American dream that has long been busted.

The Technician published the stances of NC State students on this issue. Despite differences in their opinions on how to approach the conflict, students showed a desire for progress in their words. Students were united to advocate for social rights, environmental rights and community development while balancing economic growth. NC legislators seem to be living in a parallel universe. Students, I invite you to get involved. Turn to social media, to student orgs and to local movements to express your political stances. Let’s get loud and demand representation, for us and for those we care about helping.










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