North Carolina Pork Council reports on the impact of Hurricane Florence
The historic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence has continued to cause widespread impacts across eastern North Carolina, including affecting our hog farms.
Significant efforts continue in order to provide feed and care for animals and to ensure safety for farm families and employees.
We are currently aware of the following impacts:
One lagoon breach occurred on a small farm in Duplin County. An on-site inspection showed that solids remained in the lagoon. The roof of an empty barn on the farm was also damaged. A photograph of the lagoon and barns was provided in a previous advisory and below.
Three lagoons with other structural damage. Efforts are being made to obtain a photograph to illustrate this.
Nine lagoons have been inundated by flood waters.
Thirteen lagoons are at capacity due to rainfall and appear to have overtopped. Others are at capacity and efforts are being taken to respond within state regulations and guidance.
We do not believe, based on on-farm assessments to date and industrywide surveying, that there are widespread impacts to the more than 2,100 farms with more than 3,300 anaerobic treatment lagoons in the state. Waters from the record-shattering storm are rising in some places and receding in others, and we expect additional impacts to be reported as conditions and access allows.
We track the U.S. EPA and state of North Carolina terminology.
Lagoons: Waste from hog farms is treated in anaerobic lagoons, then applied to nearby fields as fertilizer on a crop in accordance with strict state regulations. “Lagoon” is not a term created by the pork industry. It reflects the language used by the EPA to describe these treatment systems. It is incorrect to refer to hog lagoons as cesspools, which is a separate treatment system.
Breach/structural damage: A breach is a structural failure of a lagoon — the lagoon walls give way and no longer hold back all of the lagoon contents. This is rare. During Hurricane Matthew, one farm experienced a partial lagoon breach. During Hurricane Floyd, six lagoons were breached. Structural damage is a characterization that the lagoon wall has experience some damage but not a breach.
Inundation: When heavy rains cause major rivers to overflow, entire communities can be inundated with water. When a lagoon is inundated, the walls remain intact, but floodwater rises over the sides and fills the lagoon. By design, solids are stored and remain at the bottom of the lagoon, and the liquids at the top are heavily diluted, minimizing the environmental impact.
Overtop: Severe, heavy rainfall may cause a lagoon to reach capacity and overflow, or overtop. Every hog farm in the state must maintain a minimum buffer of 19 inches to allow for significant rain events. This buffer is known as freeboard and it is designed to minimize the risk of a lagoon overtopping. Many lagoons maintain much more freeboard space, especially as hurricane season approaches.