Under the Dome

State optimistic that hog lagoons remain intact

Hog waste lagoon at a farm in Duplin County.
Hog waste lagoon at a farm in Duplin County. N.C. Department of Environmental Quality

State environmental regulators say they are cautiously optimistic that hog waste lagoons in North Carolina are intact despite flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality announced that it has not confirmed any reports of breached or overtopped lagoons. It is keeping an eye on 11 reports of flooded lagoons, however.

DEQ staff has flown over the swine farms but has not been able to reach them on roads that have been impassible due to flooding. An estimated 1,300 swine have died in the flooding, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

About 2 million poultry have also died in the floods, the agriculture department reports.

Secretary Donald van der Vaart said in a news release over the weekend that inspectors will be able to determine more about the structural integrity of the lagoons once waters recede.

He said the condition of the lagoons appears to be far better than they were after Hurricane Floyd in 1999 led to widespread lagoon failure in the state.

“We will know more as floodwaters recede in the days to come,” van der Vaart said. “But we are heartened by what we have seen so far.”

There are 2,100 hog farms operating under state permits.

Members of the environmental group Waterkeepers Alliance have been doing their own fly-overs to look for signs of waste spills into the Neuse, Tar and Lumber rivers.

Also on Monday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced it has sent $500 worth of vegan chicken and meatless bacon to the North Carolina relief effort in hopes of winning converts. PETA says it hopes the gesture will persuade some to adopt a vegan diet because it tastes good or because it’s a way to prevent suffering by livestock animals.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO