Video: Aerial detectives dive deep into North Carolina’s hog waste problem

Massive feedlots are increasingly eyed as an energy source, but they pose an air and water pollution risk to nearby communities.


by Aman Azhar, Inside Climate News

Energy News Network - January 10, 2022


Conditions were optimal for an overflight on a bright, sunny November day in New Bern, a riverfront city that was North Carolina’s first state capital and the birthplace of Pepsi. Larry Baldwin and Rick Dover, his colleague at the Riverkeeper Alliance, an international nonprofit focused on clean water, stood next to a small Cessna airplane, going over their flight plan before taking off.


Baldwin’s mission was to fly over eastern North Carolina—host to an increasing number of industrial-scale hog and poultry barns, often crowded right next to one another, to collect evidence of the waste being discharged into nearby creeks and waterways, which could threaten neighboring communities with air and water contamination.


For years, Baldwin and his colleagues from Riverkeeper organizations across the state have been undertaking airborne sorties in privately chartered planes to document hog and poultry waste leaking into watersheds. Baldwin would snap pictures to supplement ongoing investigations into livestock operations he suspected were illegally contaminating water with waste from open pits of hog feces and urine.


“These Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, are spread over large areas, mostly in rural North Carolina, and it’s not easy to discover a violation from the road,” Baldwin said. “That is why we have to get into these small planes to see from above if a swine or poultry facility is committing a violation.”


Flights, Baldwin said, are the best way to compile evidence of violations and potentially illegal waste management practices by CAFO operators, he said, as well as monitor the increasing proliferation of large-scale hog and poultry operations into areas with low-income communities of color...


Unregulated chicken and turkey operations add contamination ...


more, including video [5:44 min.]