Chicken Little and the Waterkeeper

An acorn must have fallen on the head of Waterkeeper Dana Sargent during Hurricane Florence. Because ever since the storm first began approaching North Carolina in September, the Waterkeepers have been running around screaming that the sky is falling!

Or, in their words, North Carolina’s family farmers are destroying our environment with toxic waste.

When an acorn landed on the head of Chicken Little, she famously incited a panic. As one telling puts it, “she disturbed a whole neighborhood by her foolish alarm.”

That sounds familiar.

The Waterkeepers would like you to believe that every lagoon in eastern North Carolina is overflowing with hog manure. In a recent column in The News & Observer, Sargent and the Waterkeepers said that “hog waste literally blanketed huge parts of the state and fouled our drinking water” during Hurricane Florence.

And The News & Observer editors didn’t think twice about publishing such nonsense.

Perhaps they need a refresher on the moral of the Chicken Little story: Don’t believe everything you hear.

After all, this isn’t the first time the Waterkeepers have made blatantly false claims about the impact of Hurricane Florence. Right after the storm, they proclaimed there was “insanely toxic” contamination found near Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds in Wilmington.“

Hurricane Florence Unleashes Toxic Coal Ash,” blared Earthjustice. And The News & Observer duly reported the news: Environmentalists say Cape Fear ‘insanely toxic’, repeating the Waterkeeper’s claims that arsenic levels were 71 times higher than the state safety standard for water quality.

What happened next? The state’s Department of Environmental Quality had to set the record straight, explaining that flooding from Hurricane Florence “did not contaminate the Cape Fear River,” as The N&O reported.

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan had to do the exact same thing in response to concerns about hog lagoons during the flood.

“We are really focused on our wastewater treatment facilities because there are probably orders of magnitude more human waste that has escaped these wastewater treatment facilities than what has escaped these hog lagoons,” he said.

Yet, the Waterkeepers continue to ignore the facts and continue to make the same false claims against our family farmers.Here are two relevant facts from Hurricane Florence that aren’t in dispute:

  1. Despite eight trillion gallons of rain and the record-shattering floods that followed, more than 98% of North Carolina’s lagoons worked exactly as intended and suffered no significant impact from Hurricane Florence.

  2. Municipal wastewater treatment plants spilled tens of millions of gallons of human waste into our rivers, creeks and stream when they were overwhelmed by the floodwaters. And human waste poses significantly higher risks than animal waste (thus the concerns shared by the state’s top environmental official).

The Waterkeepers have no credibility left. They keep screaming that the “sky is falling!” and the facts keep proving them wrong.

Years ago, another activist group issued a report claiming that the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers were among the ten most endangered rivers in America. The N&O prominently posted that story, too. American Rivers, the group behind the report, later admitted that “the rankings aren’t a scientific assessment of river quality,” but part of a coordinated effort being pushed by the Waterkeepers to influence state lawmakers.

That’s three times they have yelled “the sky is falling!” — and three times they’ve been proven wrong by the facts. How can anyone still believe their claims are credible?The next time a newspaper editor hears a Waterkeeper blasting North Carolina farmers, they should exercise tremendous caution — and ask if an acorn recently fell on their head.

Waterkeepers up to their old tricks:Misleading the public about hog farmers

The Waterkeepers are up to their old tricks once again. They have recently published a petition, pushing folks to “tell the Cooper administration: Hold industrial hog polluters accountable.” The petition was accompanied by a short article that discussed cesspools, dumping waste, pollution, and a lack of transparency by hog farmers.

The Waterkeepers chose to frame the General Permit and hog farmers in such a way that left us confused and a bit offended. So, we’d like to clarify a few things:

  1. Hog farmers are not opposed to the General Permit. We understand that regulations are important. We do, however, have concerns regarding some of the requirements. Those concerns do not mean we are opposed to regulations, rather we just want to ensure that the permit has sound and sensical requirements that benefit both hog farmers and the community.

  2. Hog farmers already regularly report management of swine manure to the state, unlike what the Waterkeepers say.

  3. The Waterkeepers say it is “time for more oversight, accountability, and transparency.” Hog farmers have had state oversight for years. We’ve been held accountable by the state, trade organizations, and the community. And, as for transparency regarding manure management…we’ve given explanation after explanation of how it works. We’ve written blogs, aired TV commercials, and invited people to farms. Just last week we published two blogs discussing lagoons. No transparency?

  4. If the Waterkeepers are so concerned with the pollution of water, why do they only focus on hog farmers? Why do they continue to ignore sewer spills which were far worse than hog farm spills during the horrific Hurricane Florence?

We could go on and on about the discrepancies the Waterkeepers post, but we think you get the idea. They love to frame hog farmers as careless polluters. The truth is, we aren’t. We care.Publicly, we’d like to say, that we appreciate the Waterkeepers offer to be our accountability partner, but respectfully decline. We prefer partners who don’t spread falsehoods about us. We don’t need that negativity in our lives.

Let's Shoot Straight Mr Dove

The Waterkeepers leader in North Carolina, Rick Dove, just posted a comment on Farm Families’ Facebook page, and he doesn’t like our video Eighteen Years Ago.Our video tells the story of what happened, almost twenty years ago, when Mrs. Elsie Herring complained about a hog farmer spraying too close to her home: How the company investigated her complaint, agreed with her, moved the farmer’s irrigation equipment and planted a wide buffer of trees between her home and the farmer’s field.That happened almost twenty years ago. But, a few months ago, one of the Waterkeepers’ allies reported, on its website, the farmer was spraying too close to Mrs. Herring’s house now.We made a video to set the record straight. And Rick Dove didn’t like that. He claimed our video was “alternative facts.” Here’s the video so you can judge for yourself:[video width="960" height="540" mp4="http://ncfarmfamilies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/elsie-herring.mp4"][/video]Not long ago, Rick Dove had a problem with ‘alternative facts’ himself.The morning after Hurricane Matthew, Dove set out to spin a story to the press about an environmental disaster – and blame it on hog farmers. So he climbed into an airplane to fly over flooded farms to take photographs.We know now, according to state records, only one half of one percent of the lagoons on hog farms were inundated during the floods. One other lagoon on a shuttered hog farm (that hasn’t had a hog on it in five years) had two minor ‘breaches.’ In all, on 99.5% of the hog farms, nothing happened to harm the environment.But that wasn’t the picture Rick Dove and the Waterkeepers wanted to paint. So he resorted to a ruse: He posted nine pictures, all taken from a plane, all taken at different angles, of one flooded farm. But he didn’t explain, This is one farm. He posted four pictures of another farm, two of another, four of another. Dove even posted a picture of a flooded municipal waste treatment plant in Hookerton and called it a hog farm.Dove then spun his story to the press. The Washington Post even published Rick Dove’s photo of a flooded municipal waste treatment facility in Hookerton and called it a hog farm.Those were “alternative facts.” And Rick Dove hasn’t set the record straight.