Arkansans Previously Known as River Huggers

Buffalo_RiverI’ve mentioned before that I appreciate how Arkansans approach environmental issues with dissociative realism: “Now I’m no tree hugger, but…”.

The crown of Northwestern Arkansas is the Buffalo River, America’s 1st National Wild and Scenic River. Most Arkansans are deeply proud of this waterway. The effort to protect it even involved a donation by Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, as well as his and Helen’s appearance in the film that increased attention to the threat of damning it.

So I was surprised that C & H Hog Farm was permitted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to throw toxic waste across 630 acres of a federally protected river’s watershed.

Now I was raised on Midwestern farm and worked for a small hog operation in Southern Indiana. I know a bit about this. As I recall, we raised about 500 hogs that we purchased as piglets from Amish farmers further north. They were raised on processed feed and antibiotics in narrow pens sectioned along two long barns. The concrete floors beneath the pigs were perforated. Through these perforations in the floor slid the diahrea-consistent excrement from the swine into the deep pit below.

When the pits were full, we did was hog farmers do; we sucked it all into a tank and pulled it by tractor across our fields, spraying it in a great fan across 1000 acres of East Fork White River flood plain.

I questioned this at the time. It should give a rational person pause to think of blowing such a concentrated medium of methane, nitrates, ammonia, cyanide, phosphorous, girardia, salmonella, streptocolli, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and cryptosporidium near a major source of clean, fresh water. At the time I didn’t have the education or power to form an educated argument.

David Casaletto posted a very good and unbiased overview of the issue here in which he attests to C & H Hog Farm’s track record for remaining within ADEQ acceptable margins of pollution. I accept this. And I accept the need for economic options for nearby communities. But let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot. Even if it’s precautionary to oppose it, why hazard such a breeding ground for disease and pollutants on the edge of a federally protected treasure and resource for regional tourism: both a significant natural resource and economic source for Arkansas?

Please sign this petition to “Keep America’s First National River, the Buffalo River, Clean and Pristine!

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