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More hog lagoons overflowing; 300,000 gallons of raw sewage spills in Johnston County

See aerial images of the damage to Eastern NC from Florence

See images of Hurricane Florence's devastation from the air as photojournalist Casey Toth flies along with a National Guard relief mission to Trenton, NC on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.
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See images of Hurricane Florence's devastation from the air as photojournalist Casey Toth flies along with a National Guard relief mission to Trenton, NC on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.

The Town of Benson, about 33 miles south of Raleigh, is the latest North Carolina community to report that its sewage treatment plant discharged untreated waste water into the environment.

Meanwhile, North Carolina authorities said that the number of lagoons holding hog waste that are damaged or at risk of overflowing continues to increase as flood waters rise in sections of the state that saw the most severe results from Hurricane Florence.

Benson authorities said Tuesday in a statement posted on the city website and emailed to the news media that their system disgorged an estimated 300,000 gallons of sewage from two manholes in the Johnston County town of 3,800 people.

The town’s water treatment system overflowed with rain from Hurricane Florence, discharging sewage into Driving Branch in the Neuse River Basin. The sewage spill took place over six days, starting Sept. 13 and ending Sept. 18.

The Benson Wastewater Treatment Plant is permitted to treat up to 1.9 million gallons of water per day, but during the peak rainfall of Hurricane Florence, 4 million gallons of water entered the system, more than twice the amount it is permitted to handle, resulting in 300,000 gallons overflowing and spilling.

At least two other sewage spills have been reported in Johnston County in the past several days.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality said Wednesday that five hog lagoons are damaged, up from four tallied Tuesday. The agency said that 21 lagoons are “overtopping,” or spilling over the edge, from heavy rainfall.

North Carolina’s 3,300 hog lagoons are natural treatment systems for swine feces and urine. The ponds, typically exposed to the open air, store animal waste that is broken down by microorganisms. The byproducts are used as crop fertilizer.

Pig waste contains bacteria and pathogens, including salmonella, E. coli and coliform bacteria, that can result in serious illness to people exposed to the microbes.

The Department of Environmental Quality said that 67 lagoons are now filled with fluid within 3 inches of the rim, posing a risk of overflowing. On Tuesday that number was 55 lagoons.

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