Speak up now on factory farm general permits

State regulators are still at work on permits that direct how factory-scale animal farms must handle the waste from their animals. Speak up now to demand strong environmental safeguards for people who live near these farms, and for all of us who need safe, clean drinking water!

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality renews the general permits every five years. A new swine waste general permit and swine digester general permit are due out next year, and DEQ is taking public comment now.

Check out these talking points for background and tips to help you compose your comments. 

What's at stake?

Big hog farms in North Carolina dispose of animal waste via the "lagoon and sprayfield" system. That means hog feces and urine are kept in massive, open-air pits that can be flooded in stormy weather and that may develop breaches due to age or neglect. The liquid waste is sprayed onto agricultural fields, sending dangerous bacteria and particulate matter into the air, where it threatens the health and homes of nearby residents. And you can imagine the stench.

The general permit sets out requirements for lagoon liners, groundwater monitoring, waste spill reporting, soil testing and more. The new permit needs to be far more protective of people and the environment.

The digester permit covers farms that are using hog waste to create biogas. In these cases, the lagoons are covered to capture methane, which will then be scrubbed and injected into pipelines. This system has many problems of its own, not least of which is the digester waste - concentrated hog waste that's even more hazardous than in its original form. Once gas is extracted, the digester waste, too, is handled with lagoons and sprayfields.

Our 2023 summer fellows studied the lagoon-and-sprayfield system and biogas projects. Read their report.

The lagoon-and-sprayfield system is antiquated, dirty and dangerous for the environment.  North Carolina leaders said years ago that it must be phased out, but it hasn't happened - and now biogas projects are helping to entrench it.

Until our state makes good on a transition to cleaner waste management for our factory farms, we must speak up to demand that the existing system is closely monitored and regulated. Your voice is essential!