Permit hearing set for C&H Hog Farms

Posted: March 5, 2017 at 1:02 a.m.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing Tuesday evening on C&H Hog Farms' application for a permit to continue its Mount Judea operations.

The public hearing is at 6 p.m. at the Jasper School District auditorium in Jasper.

The department gave preliminary approval of the facility's permit application Feb. 15, pending a public comment period.

The 30-day comment period ends at 4:30 p.m. March 17.

C&H Hog Farms Inc., near Mount Judea in Newton County, sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it converges with the Buffalo National River. It is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed and is currently permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.

C&H applied for a permit under Regulation 5, the state's no-discharge permit program, after the department canceled the type of permit the facility previously had. Provisions of the proposed new permit are not much different, the department has said.

The new permit further clarifies that discharge from the facility is not allowed outside of a major flood event, defined as a 24-hour, 25-year event. The hog manure ponds will still be required to leave room at the top to prevent overflow in the event of rain. And while C&H has altered the number of hogs it intends to keep on site, officials don't expect a significant difference in the amount of waste they will produce.

C&H, which has operated since 2013, has been accused of posing a pollution risk to the river because of its size.

State-funded researchers working at and with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture continue to monitor the farm to see whether it is affecting the river and have so far released no definite finding. A drilling project conducted last fall found no evidence of a hog manure pond leaking. Researchers working with C&H opponents say dye tracing has indicated how water can flow from near the farm into the river.

The Buffalo National River had 1.79 million visitors in 2016, the highest total ever.

NW News on 03/05/2017