PINK HILL, N.C. __ Leaning out over a bridge railing, Aaron Harris carefully lowers a basket of empty plastic bottles into the slow-moving Goshen Swamp, where they fill with water the color of weak coffee before he reels them back up.

Harris, an environmental specialist with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, samples the water to understand just how polluted the water is after storms sweep debris and pollution into North Carolina’s low-lying watersheds. But residents worry about one potential source of contamination and it’s also the industry that keeps this region alive: Hog farming.

When storms season hits North Carolina, hog farms are some of the most vulnerable places in the state because most hog farmers here dispose of their hog waste in massive open-pit lagoons.

And North Carolina has already endured its wettest year on record. The saturated ground can’t absorb much more rain, which increases the flooding risk. So the storm that approached the region on Thursday only made things worse.

Torrential rains can send hog waste over the top of the lagoon, where it washes into rivers and streams. Sometimes, the lagoons themselves breach, and hog waste spills into the groundwater. During Florence, both happened, with at least 50 flooded lagoons and two breaches.

Catastrophic flooding aside, neighbors say hog farms also present a regular nuisance to their quality of life. That’s in part because of the lagoons, but mostly because of how hog farms traditionally dispose of their waste: Letting the solids settle to the bottom and spraying the floating liquid effluvia onto their fields.

That’s hog feces, hog urine and hog blood, sprayed in clouds sometimes just a few yards from someone’s house. For Elsie Herring, the stink is constant.

“We don’t come outside much, you know. And we don’t open the windows because the odor — you can’t keep the odor out, whether you open the windows or not, you just can’t,” said Herring, perched in a rocking chair on her pink house’s front porch as another spray cloud blew onto her property. “You can smell it now, can’t you.”

Herring is one of 500 plaintiffs suing Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. The plaintiffs claim Smithfield’s waste-management practice of storing hog shit in lagoons and then spraying it onto fields severely reduces their quality of life.

Nearly every hog farmer in North Carolina is a contract farmer, meaning the agribusiness corporations own the pigs and the farmers own the waste. Morris Murphy has 15,000 head of Smithfield hog on his land in Duplin County, and says the nuisance lawsuits are baseless.

While hog farms do smell, Murphy says, it’s not bad enough to affect his neighbors. His lagoons are open pits, and on a sunny morning in mid-October, didn’t present much of a smell, even just a few feet away.

He’s not being sued, but his friends are. He says at least one fellow hog farmer had his hogs taken back by Smithfield after a lawsuit.

Hog farmers say they can’t afford to operate without open-pit lagoons, and agribusiness conglomerates haven’t shown much willingness to pay to cover the lagoons — an expensive proposition that includes a whole separate system to deal with the biogasses produced by the covered hog poop.

“Personally I think the system’s fine,” Morris said. “Someone needs to come here and prove to me that what I’m doing is bad for the environment before I feel like I need to change it.”

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32 Comments

twistr · October 12, 2018 at 1:53 pm

North Carolina c'mon and raise up take your shirt off and spin it like a helicopter.

– Pety Pablo

Senri Shiki · October 12, 2018 at 1:53 pm

That's why Trump. They're high on poop.

DeviantDespot · October 12, 2018 at 1:53 pm

(INSERT Obnoxious vegan post about plant based dieting being better for the environment etc. Blah blah blah)

colonel 100 · October 12, 2018 at 1:55 pm

As they cheer trump destroying environmental laws, they have pig shit flowing into their homes.
Have fun living in pig shit conservatives

DeviantDespot · October 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm

There is something refreshing about a news organization actually using the word shit.

cvc · October 12, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Delicious.

Mesrop Madxharyan · October 12, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Train the pigs to use the restroom 🐖 🐷

Bembee E · October 12, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Love that they say'shit' lol

King Militant · October 12, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Im fucking dead she said deep shit 😂😂

John Hill · October 12, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Stop eating meat

Alex Arifin · October 12, 2018 at 2:07 pm

full of shit hahahaha

Dr Brooklyn · October 12, 2018 at 2:11 pm

That's hilarious. It's like God's wrath on the bible belt for electing Trump.

Henry TheGreatAmerican · October 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm

I have no sympathy for the people in the Carolinas. They keep electing republicans who reduce "burdensome regulation" on business. That's code for stripping power from the voters and letting big business donors do whatever they want with no substantial consequences.

Antonio Chang · October 12, 2018 at 2:25 pm

I hate that accent

biohazardlnf · October 12, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Eh butler types like me

JONATHAN SUTCLIFFE · October 12, 2018 at 2:31 pm

PIG MUCK. INTENSIVE FARMING IS THE ISSUE, NO DOUBT?

Ady van de Plas · October 12, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Americans>>>>>>>>>

arlingtonguy54 · October 12, 2018 at 2:37 pm

I live in Western NC. Big industry runs this state through its paid Republican servants so they have no incentive to regulate any polluting industry. Our Dem governor is helpless under the Republican machine. Gerrymandered districts prevent us from electing liberals despite court orders to fix them. Now the Supreme Court will support gerrymandering so NC is pretty much up to our ears in pig shit.

john max · October 12, 2018 at 2:39 pm

make some fuel with all this fermented poop, and teach middle school kids how to build dirt bikes powered by hog poop fuel. problem solved !

david swanson · October 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Don’t add water to it, compost it! When you add water to poop it creates the ideal conditions for pathogens to grow. Add sweep it up in a pile cover with a layer of straw, sawdust, dead leaves, etc and good bacteria will break it down naturally killing the smell and the toxins. We’ve been handling poop all wrong!

jttvgy · October 12, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Why can't they just hook them up to municipal waste systems?

Ego Frost · October 12, 2018 at 2:46 pm

lol the way they say shit is so funny

Sar Dbr · October 12, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Dont eat my friends!

steve campbell · October 12, 2018 at 2:46 pm

google savory institute, holistic management, regenerative agriculture, polyface farms…

Jesse Afolabi · October 12, 2018 at 2:48 pm

So much shit, so little time

Sourabh · October 12, 2018 at 2:49 pm

One thing that always amazes me is, how resourceful USA is, compared to countries like India. USA is resourceful in every sector of economy.

Mohsen Haddad · October 12, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Feels good being muslim right now

YewTewbe · October 12, 2018 at 2:52 pm

A barn full of pigs that never see daylight doesn't make you a "farmer", it makes you a "factory farmer". Don't dress it up, be honest about it.

Liv Lab · October 12, 2018 at 2:56 pm

GO VEGAN

hannesH3 · October 12, 2018 at 2:58 pm

It's pig shit. Why not just throw it on fields or in the forrest?

Monster · October 12, 2018 at 2:58 pm

Just dump it on the Donny’s front lawn.

Konglomerant · October 12, 2018 at 3:01 pm

3:423:48 funniest shit Ive seen all day…

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