RALEIGH, NC. – B&L Farms, a pork producer for Smithfield Foods Inc., faces fines for an animal waste lagoon breach that spilled an estimated 3 million gallons of hog waste into farms, wetlands, and into an unnamed tributary in the Cape Fear River Basin, said the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Water Resources (DWR).
The breach was reported to the DWR Fayetteville Regional Office on June 12. DWR staff discovered the problem after an inspection at B&L Farms.
“The wastewater elevation in the lagoon had been so high and for such a duration that: 1) Due to being saturated with wastewater, the earthen lagoon berm containment structure was notably soft when walking along the berm; 2) The vegetation was observed dead at the crest of the lagoon berm due to being inundated by the waste; and 3) a concentric ring of waste solids had deposited on the inside of the lagoon clearly depicting the extent and elevation of the waste elevation, prior to failure,” DWR said in its report.
Water samples collected at the site revealed the lagoon failure resulted in wastewater, solids and sludge spread from the lagoon to other areas in Sampson County. In one location, Wagner Pond, DWR staff estimated from photographs taken at Wagner Pond a minimum of one thousand dead fish including brim, catfish, bass, an eel and other fish.
The agency said violations include “…failure to prevent the discharge of waste to surface waters or wetlands, failure to inspect the waste collection, treatment, and storage system following a storm event greater than one-inch rain, and failure to maintain records and make them readily available.”
B&L Farms must provide DWR a plan of action for the repair or replacement of the lagoon embankment or proper closure of the lagoon. Also, the company must provide a detailed account of steps taken to recover wastes including estimated volumes, dates, locations and other information. Finally, a list detailing measures taken to prevent these violations from re-occurring in the future.
B&L Farms may provide written response to the DWR notice within 20 days. The agency will review the information before deciding whether to issue a civil penalty.