The Southern Environment Law Center: Keeping North Carolina CAFOs in check

Here, in post #2 of a focus on The Orton Foundation partner Southern Environment Law Center,  we highlight the SELC’s work in addressing the pollution and injustice caused by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and protecting the air quality, water quality, and natural resources of the lower Cape Fear River.

Eastern North Carolina in particular has one of the highest concentrations of concentrated animal feeding operations in the world. The mind-boggling amount of untreated animal waste produced by factory farms, or CAFOs, and the side-stepping around pollution regulations work to threaten local waterways and the health and wellness of local communities. By denying independent consultants access to sites for groundwater sampling, and by attempting to change the classification of waters, North Carolina swine producers and sympathizers are refusing to address pollution, and refusing to acknowledge the environmental injustice forced upon local communities — often poor, African Americans.

In February 2015, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) submitted a proposal to reclassify the segment of the Cape Fear River that flows through Brunswick County as slow-moving “swamp waters.” This reclassification of the river would allow regulators to reduce water quality protections  and ignore the impacts of pollution from upstream factory farms.

Thanks to the vigilance and determination of partners such as the SELC, these attempts that thwart the responsibility of the largest operations, such as now foreign-owned Smithfield Foods, are challenged. For instance, in October 2015, SELC filed a motion in federal court on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance and South Rivers seeking to require groundwater analysis at 11 Smithfield Foods facilities in eastern North Carolina.

Keep informed about the SELC’s CAFOs efforts and more by signing up for their newsletter at the bottom of their website. You’d be surprised by all the critical issues they are keeping in check in order to protect the air and water of North Carolina and around the country.