Farm lagoons give way; sewage plants are overwhelmed by rains

Farm lagoons give way; sewage plants are overwhelmed by rains

Hurricane-wracked North Carolina faced a health and environmental crisis after at least 17 hog-waste lagoons were compromised and sewage plants across the state flooded, releasing millions of gallons of partially treated human discharge.

On an aerial tour Monday of a swath of swine country — the dozen top hog-producing counties cover an area the size of New Jersey — many lagoons appeared intact. Roughly the size of a soccer field, they are blue-green or red, thanks to bacteria that break down the feces and urine. Several, though, were swamped with water from the torrential rains and creeks that had burst from their banks.

“We don’t think it’s a good idea for people to be swimming around in poop,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America, a Colorado-based advocacy group. “It’s a pretty serious public-health risk that people should be concerned about.

Hog waste contains E. coli and bacteria, Rumpler said. Sewage overflows, combined with high floodwaters, bring the prospect of ecological impacts including fish kills. Humans coming into contact with fecal matter risk viruses, parasitic infections and rashes.

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