Hurricane Florence is barreling towards The Carolinas and is poised to wreak lots of destruction to the coast even though it’s been downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 3 hurricane. Besides the property and infrastructure damage that hurricanes often cause, Florence is expected to cause pig manure to flood into waterways in North Carolina. That’s because the state’s hog raising farms are close to the coast and they keep the wet waste (blood and fecal matter) in open air lagoons.
As Quartz reports, pigs are a big deal in North Carolina. The state has over 2,000 pig farms and 9 million pigs which produce about 10 billion pounds of waste per year. According to Quartz, the waste storage lagoons are roughly the size of football fields.
As Hurricane Florence approaches, Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that promotes the preservation of clean water, claims that North Carolina’s waterways are under particular threat from these manure lagoons because of outdated management practices.
“This increasingly severe, potentially unprecedented storm is hurdling to the epicenter of animal agriculture in North Carolina,” Will Hendrick, a staff attorney and manager at Waterkeeper Alliance, said in an interview with NOLA. “Because waste is managed using archaic practices, it presents a significant threat to water quality, primarily through runoff and/or breach or inundation of hog lagoons.”
Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye. Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you. #Horizons pic.twitter.com/ovZozsncfh
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) September 12, 2018
But there are people in the pork industry who insist that the lagoon system can withstand floods but only if flood waters rise to a certain point.
Andy Curliss, the CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council, has said that the lagoons can deal with up to 25 inches of rain. Any more than that is a cause for concern, he told Bloomberg.
As Quartz notes, weather forecasts from Accuweather predict that certain parts of North Carolina will receive 40 inches of rain courtesy of Florence.
Pig farmers were warned about the impact that Hurricane Florence could have. AgWeb, an online resource for farmers, urged them to get prepared in an article published on September 10. The article cites an interview with meteorologist Brad Rippey who likened Florence’s potential impact with the damage Hurricane Floyd did in 1999.
He expects that Florence will hit the same parts of North Carolina as Floyd and will likely have a similar effect on pig farms.
“Floyd did dump over 20″ of rain across eastern North Carolina. One of the biggest impacts was the mortality of tens of thousands of hogs and pigs and that also overran waste ponds,” Rippey said. ” And so there was a lot of water pollution that got into the waterways through eastern North Carolina.”