By: Waterkeeper Alliance
March 14, 2014
Groups Take Aim at Wendell Murphy, Jr. and Murphy-Brown, for Illegal Swine Waste Discharges at Stantonsburg Facility
Swine waste is commonly and directly discharged to public waters from CAFO facilities
NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA – The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and Waterkeeper Alliance, together with the public interest law firms Public Justice, P.C., and Davis & Whitlock, P.C., today issued a Notice of Intent to sue the owners and operators of the Stantonsburg Farm, Inc., an industrial swine feeding operation, to stop illegal discharges of swine waste into groundwater, wetlands and streams that flow to the Contentnea Creek and Neuse River watersheds. The Stantonsburg Farm, Inc. Swine Facility has a long history of illegal discharges and waste management problems, including a major discharge of raw swine waste to a tributary of Contentnea Creek on March 15, 2013. Neighbors report that they have repeatedly seen raw swine waste in a stream that flows from the Stantonsburg Facility to Contentnea Creek.
Stantonsburg Farm, Inc., whose President is Wendell H. Murphy, Jr., owns and operates the Stantonsburg Swine Facility, which confines more than 4,800 swine in Stantonsburg, North Carolina for Murphy Brown – a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc. which was recently acquired by Hong Kong-based Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. Murphy-Brown has overseen the operation and waste management at the Facility under a lease agreement. People living near the Stantonsburg Facility have tried to get the company and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) to help them deal with the odor, fly swarms, swine waste discharges, and impacts to their water wells since the facility began operations in the 1990s to no avail.
“Many of us grew up around here, and have deep connections to the land and waters. We caught crawdads, fished and swam in these waters, and purchased land to maintain our connections to the area or have a place of our own that provided a good quality of life,” said Don Webb, a neighboring landowner who acquired property in the late 1980’s, which was once owned by his grandfather and is adjacent to the facility property. “The smell, the flies and the pollution from this facility has destroyed our quality of life and causes constant stress. How would you feel if you couldn’t drink the water from your own well, go to church without the smell of hog waste permeating your clothing, or even have a barbeque with friends on your own property? Living next to a creek that often fills with raw swine excrement makes me wonder if it’s safe for my neighbors to be around here.”
Swine waste contains pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants that can cause fish kills, endanger swimmers, promote blooms of toxic algae, and contaminate drinking water when discharged into public waters. The Stantonsburg Facility is discharging pollutants from swine waste into tributaries of the Contentnea Creek and Neuse River watersheds. The Clean Water Act contains provisions allowing citizens to step in when the government fails to protect their communities and enforce federal law. The groups will file suit under the federal Clean Water Act if action is not taken to stop the swine waste discharges and clean up the Stantonsburg Facility within 60 days.
“Discharges of swine waste from the Stantonsburg Facility are illegal under the Clean Water Act and have obvious impacts on neighboring landowners that should have merited immediate action from the NCDENR,” said Larry Baldwin, CAFO Coordinator at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Unfortunately, this is not a unique or isolated problem, but one we see across eastern NC. We will continue to document these discharges and take action to stop the most egregious violations, but NCDENR must start enforcing the Clean Water Act prohibitions on discharges of swine waste to NC waterways.”
This is the second Clean Water Act enforcement notice that the groups have had to issue this year to stop swine waste discharges from an industrial swine facility in the Neuse watershed. There are approximately 500 industrial swine facilities housing roughly 1.8 million animals in the Neuse River watershed. NCDENR often claims that these animal feeding operations in the Neuse operate under state issued “no-discharge” permits, but also admits that swine waste is commonly and directly discharged to public waters from these operations through ditches – a violation of both state and federal law. Industrialized swine production facilities that discharge pollutants are required to obtain Clean Water Act permits to prevent these discharges, but EPA reports that only 14 Clean Water Act permits have been issued to the roughly 1200 facilities in North Carolina by the NCDENR.
These waterways drive the local economy in this region; however, the Neuse Estuary regularly experiences algal blooms, fish kills and depletion of oxygen necessary to sustain the fishery as a result of excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. The NCDENR acknowledges that its efforts to reduce pollution over the last two decades in the Neuse have failed to achieve “any significant decrease in actual nutrient loading to the estuary,” and that phosphorus pollution in these waterways has actually increased.
“The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation would like to work with the owners and operators of the Stantonsburg Facility to address these serious issues and protect the community and Neuse watershed from illegal swine waste discharges,” said Jim Kellenberger, President of the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation. “However, we must take action to address the mismanagement of swine waste and pollution discharges at this facility, and if the facility is unwilling to implement sound swine waste management practices, we will then be forced to file suit to enforce the law and protect the citizens of North Carolina.”
About the Neuse River Foundation
The Neuse River Foundation, doing business as Neuse RIVERKEEPER® Foundation, restores and preserves the Neuse River basin through education, advocacy and protection, in order to provide clean water for drinking, recreation and enjoyment to the communities that it serves. Learn more at: www.neuseriver.org
About WATERKEEPER® Alliance
Founded in 1999 by environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and several veteran Waterkeeper Organizations, Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect over 1.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. Learn more at: www.waterkeeper.org or follow @Waterkeeper on Twitter and Facebook.
About Public Justice, P.C.
Public Justice, P.C., fights for consumer and victims’ rights, environmental protection and safety, civil rights and civil liberties, workers’ rights, America’s civil justice system, and the wronged, the poor and the powerless. We accomplish this through precedent-setting and socially significant individual and class action litigation, calling upon 3,000 of the country’s most experienced, most dedicated and most courageous lawyers, each devoted to ensuring justice for all. > Learn more
About Davis & Whitlock, P.C.
Davis & Whitlock, P.C., representing environmental disaster victims, community groups, environmental organizations, and state and local governments. Learn more at: http://enviroattorney.com/