Industrial Hog Operation Murphy-Brown Refuses to Clean up Its Pollution in Three Eastern North Carolina River Basins

First published on Waterkeeper Alliance.

Conservation groups today filed a motion in federal court seeking to require an industrial hog operation, Murphy-Brown, to comply with a 2006 agreement to clean up its groundwater contamination at several hog facilities in eastern North Carolina. Under the agreement, an independent groundwater expert identified 11 facilities in the Neuse, Lumber, and Cape Fear River basins with demonstrated threats to groundwater or confirmed groundwater pollution.

Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc, the largest pork factory operation in the world, faced four different legal challenges relating to Clean Water Act violations from its massive industrial hog facilities before a 2006 agreement with Waterkeeper Alliance and the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation (now Sound Rivers, Inc.) was reached. But the motion filed today by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers alleges that Murphy-Brown has failed to comply with a central component of the agreement — remedying demonstrated groundwater hazards at its hog facilities in eastern North Carolina.

“Based on the company’s own records, an independent expert has determined that 11 of Murphy Brown’s facilities are endangering our groundwater in three of North Carolina’s river basins,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We’re asking the court to require the corporation to make good on its promises and to clean up its facilities.”

Under the terms of the agreement, an independent groundwater expert chosen by the parties evaluated Murphy-Brown owned and operated swine facilities in eastern North Carolina for potential contamination of groundwater by swine waste. That review identified the 11 facilities with demonstrated groundwater contamination or waste lagoon problems in Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Pitt, Sampson and Scotland counties. As part of the review, the expert identified additional groundwater sampling needed to ensure that groundwater contamination at each site is cleaned up.

“We hope the court promptly orders the necessary information collection,” said Will Hendrick, Chapel Hill-based staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. “The parties selected a neutral expert and we should rely on his expertise regarding the nature and extent of investigation needed to fully evaluate, and respond to, the problems with lagoons and groundwater pollution identified at these facilities.”

Murphy-Brown refuses to allow the consultant to take necessary groundwater samples. The motion follows failed attempts to resolve Murphy Brown’s objections through settlement. In today’s motion, SELC asks the court to require the company to adhere to the requirements of the agreement between the parties and allow the consultant to gather necessary data to develop corrective action plans for each of the 11 identified sites that pose a threat to groundwater.

“We are disappointed that Murphy Brown is not willing to move forward with the next phase of the settlement agreement, which would establish what needs to be done to clean up groundwater pollution at these facilities,” said Harrison Marks, executive director of Sound Rivers. “We will continue to seek enforcement of this agreement.”

Waterkeeper Alliance and North Carolina Riverkeepers Launch “The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production” Environmental Justice Video Campaign

Waterkeeper Alliance and thirteen North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations have launched a new environmental justice video campaign that captures the struggle of community members living with the impacts of industrial farm pollution. Titled The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production, the campaign aims to raise awareness of environmental injustices being perpetrated against North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations and features powerful, first-hand accounts of community members, esteemed scientific experts, and local people on the ground. This campaign shows the devastating impacts to public health, quality of life, and local waterways caused by industrial animal agriculture.

The campaign is comprised of nine short videos, designed specifically for viewing on social media:

“The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production” — An overview of what is happening in North Carolina, where industrial animal production has taken the place of family farms.

“Wasting Away” — Highlights the problem of industrial animal waste and how the pork industry is not being held accountable to dispose of it correctly.

“Belly Up” — How waste generated by industrial meat production is decimating North Carolina’s waterways and in turn, killing its fish and ecosystems.

“Birthright” — Community members whose families have lived on their properties for generations talk about the heritage of their land and how it has been overtaken by industrial agriculture and animal waste.

“Prisoners” — Residents discuss how they have become prisoners in their own homes due to the impacts of pollution from industrial animal production, which make it nearly impossible for them to enjoy their property.

“Mislabeled” — How the pork industry deceives consumers with its marketing tactics and labeling of its products.

“Bullied” — Duplin County resident Elsie Herring talks about how she has been intimidated and threatened by the pork industry to remain silent about the injustices she and her family faces.

“Silenced” — The pork industry intimidates by bullying and seeking to silence the people most affected by the impacts of its pollution.

“The Value of Land” — The pork industry’s refusal to dispose of its waste in a regulated and more sustainable manner has decimated people’s property values, making them unable to move.

This video campaign also expands on the recent landmark report and GIS initiative by Waterkeeper Alliance, North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations and Environmental Working Group that shows the location and waste outputs of more than 6,500 swine, cattle and poultry operations throughout North Carolina.

Louis Bacon and The Moore Charitable Foundation are proud to partner with Waterkeeper Alliance in the fight for clean air and water, for all people. 

Riverkeeper: A Model of River Advocacy and a True Champion of the Hudson River

works to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. The Moore Charitable Foundation and founder Louis Bacon are proud and long-time supporter of Riverkeeper and stand behind its work up the Hudson, and in and around the bays of New York City.

riverkeeper-patrol-1A little history: In 1966, the Hudson River was dying. Treated as essentially an open sewer from Albany to New York City, it had been poisoned and stolen from the public. A group of concerned former marines, commercial fisherman, factory workers and carpenters finally had enough. Stepping up to bring the polluters to task, they formed the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA). It was a mighty turn of events, and fifty years later, evolved into the form of Riverkeeper, with Paul Gallay as Hudson Riverkeeper, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as Chief Prosecuting Attorney and John Lipscomb as Boat Captain, with many other tireless workers and partners, the organization has become a trusted model of education and action for river advocacy around the world, and the force that turned – and keeps – the Hudson River glorious again.

In 2015, Riverkeeper fulfilled its role as watchdog for the Hudson in many ways, including the following:

  • Holding back oil terminal expansion: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) changed course on a proposed oil terminal expansion in Albany
  • Tappan Zee Bridge/endangered sturgeon: Monitoring and outreach around the massive Tappan Zee Bridge construction project. Riverkeeper made known the dramatic spike in sturgeon deaths reported to New York State coinciding with the bridge project
  • Water quality sampling: Expanded the water quality testing program and took more than 6,200 measures of water quality from 315 locations, including new monitoring projects at Ossining Beach and in the Saw Mill River, and a pilot project in the Mohawk River
  • Biggest shoreline cleanup ever: More than 2,000 volunteers netted 40 tons of trash and planted/maintained trees along Hudson Valley and New York City shorelines during the fourth annual Riverkeeper Sweep on May 9, 2015
  • Improving New York City’s waterways: Attacked stormwater pollution on Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal by systematically targeting industrial operators that lack Clean Water Act permits. Notices of intent to sue led many previously non-compliant operators to obtain permits and adopt best management practices as part of a stormwater pollution prevention plan.

Now – or rather, still, we have Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. In 2015, Riverkeeper concluded two federal and state-level historic hearings in the battle to deny Entergy another 20 year license, spotlighting the plant’s eight mishaps during the year, including a transformer explosion and fire; highlighting its massive incidental killing of over a billion fish per year; and documenting how this security threat to metro New York can be replaced safely and inexpensively while ensuring reliable electric service.

It is up to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, currently examining the inputs, to determine whether the plant’s licenses should be renewed. We strongly encourage readers to click here to learn more about the threats of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant to the Hudson River and surrounding residents, to take action in favor of a sustainable energy future, and stand with Riverkeeper. 

In 2001, Louis Bacon, Founder and Chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliate foundations was honored to be the 2001 recipient of Riverkeeper’s Environmental Leadership Award. 

COP21: US Environmental Groups Stand to Benefit from International Commitments

This past week, leaders from across the globe convened in Paris at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change to discuss issues critical to the future of our planet. While issues such as reducing emissions and supporting clean energy technology research may seem out of reach, these are intrinsically connected to the very issues Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation and its grantees support.

The primary goal of the summit is a global agreement on limiting emissions which would thwart the effects of climate change and global warming. With the United States and China, two of the world’s largest carbon polluters, now in lockstep on a pledge to enact emissions reductions policies, this goal seems more feasible than ever before.

In addition to the remarkable emissions goal, the presidents of the United States and France announced “Mission Innovation” – a commitment from 20 countries to double their clean energy research and development investment over five years. Together, these 20 nations represent 75 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from electricity, and more than 80 percent of the world’s clean energy research and development investment.

Here in North America, the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign stands to benefit from these substantial commitments, and Oceana’s efforts to stop offshore drilling could experience an additional tailwind. MCF is proud to support both of these important initiatives as they successfully educate and mobilize communities, affect policy, and produce
tangible results – all for the demand of a clean energy future.

Waterkeepers from around the world, who are among the first to see the severe and often devastating effects of climate change on their waterways and in the communities, are in place to demand action and influence the legally binding universal agreement on climate. 121 Waterkeepers from over 20 countries have submitted specific calls to action to their government leaders in preparation for these weeks. Read their full list of demands, as well as the most pressing threats to their watersheds.

At last week’s end, food figured high on the agenda, with three important announcement: the release of a new tool to chart food insecurity; the launch of 4/100 was launched, an initiative to help keep carbon in soil through better farming techniques; and, in particular interest to MCF, the announcement a new food waste forum was to encourage G20 countries, private sector and NGOs to fight food waste together. This relates to a major Waterkeeper priority: fighting the environmental destruction and injustice of industrial farming or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) through their Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign.

The talks continue tomorrow. If last week is any meter, we can look forward to more announcements and, if the force be with us, some binding agreements. We encourage all organizations and individuals to pay attention to the conversations, and join us in the fight against global warming, whether it’s through supporting our grantees or simply being an advocate in your own sphere.





Peconic Baykeeper 2nd Annual Benefit For The Bays

On Saturday June 28, I had the pleasure of spending the evening with Peconic Baykeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance on the beautiful Peconic Bay for their 2nd annual Benefit for the Bays. Together we celebrated a new chapter for the Peconic Baykeeper, while raising funds to protect swimmable, drinkable and fishable waters locally and around the globe.  Attendees were united by a passion for the environment and the belief that everyone deserves the fundamental right to clean water. This connection was amplified by Marc Yaggi, the Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance, as he spoke to his own path as a clean water advocate and ultimately of Waterkeeper’s commitment to reaching 500 local Keeper organizations within the next three years. Peconic Baykeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance have accomplished a lot in water protection but the fight is not over! Especially on Long Island, effectively addressing the region’s water quality issues will take a comprehensive approach. As a professional community planner for 25 years, Dan Gulizio, the interim Executive Director of Peconic Baykeeper, spoke to both the challenges facing local waterbodies and the common sense solutions Peconic Baykeeper is pursuing to restore the vitality of Long Island’s unique coastal environment. Please learn more about their work and join as a member today.

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