By: Waterkeeper Alliance
New Video Shows Potential Impact of PED Outbreak on Human Health; Waterkeepers Ask N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture to Take Action on Hog Deaths, and Urge Governor to Declare a State of Emergency
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA –Waterkeeper Alliance and North Carolina Riverkeepers today called on the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, to take immediate action necessary to protect human health and the environment in response the swine industry’s handling of dead hogs resulting from the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus outbreak in North Carolina. The groups ask Commissioner Troxler to immediately inform the public about the scope of the problem and human health risks associated improper handling and disposal of infected hog carcasses, and to take responsibility for ensuring that the massive hog mortality will be safely managed by the swine industry and supervised by the State.
The groups are also calling on Commissioner Troxler to request that Governor Pat McCrory declare a State of Emergency to deal with the PED mortality problem as contemplated in 2011 Animal Burial Guidelines developed by the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. A State of Emergency would allow state and local authorities, including county health directors, to inspect industrialized swine facilities where the PED virus has left millions of dead and dying hogs, and implement emergency plans and requirements for safely handling swine mortality. Burying dead pigs in mass graves is common practice in mass casualty events, and Waterkeepers are concerned that in areas of the coastal plain, where most infected swine facilities are located, there is a high risk for contamination of shallow groundwater and nearby waterways, allowing for the transmission of bacteria and pathogens to drinking water supplies and recreational waters.
“While we understand that PED cannot be directly transmitted to humans, the massive numbers of pigs that have died from this virus pose a significant concern to the public health if not disposed of properly,” said Mr. Gray Jernigan, North Carolina-based staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. “There is currently little to no government oversight of carcass disposal in the midst of this epidemic, and we are calling on the State to take action as authorized by law to protect the citizens of North Carolina.”
“I have seen first hand the unsafe disposal methods commonly employed on hog facilities. Hogs are commonly buried in low-lying areas adjacent to wetlands. They often sit out for days waiting to be transported for off-site disposal while blood and other fluids seep into the ground,” added Mr. Larry Baldwin, New Bern-based CAFO Coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance.
The request to Commissioner Troxler was made in a letter released today that includes a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for additional information on the full scope of the PED outbreak, including numbers and locations of affected farms, total numbers of dead animals, the number and location of disposal sites, and a full and public accounting of the state’s response to the PED outbreak. Also included is a resolution passed in 2007 by the Association of Local County Health Directors expressing their concerns for the public health, and requesting appropriate reform of dangerous swine production practices. The swine industry sought to have this Resolution rescinded. That attempt was rejected by the Association.
Additionally, the organizations today released a new video that shows the impact of the PED virus on North Carolina farms, and illustrates the way diseased animals are being disposed of, which could threaten human health and the environment. Please click here to view this important video: http://youtu.be/jKYuw9ynePw
A 2013 study, “Investigating the Role of State and Local Health Departments in Addressing Public Health Concerns Related to Industrial Food Animal Production Sites,” by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, examined the role of local and state health departments in responding to and preventing community-driven concerns associated with animal production sites. This study developed when it was brought to the attention of two of the authors that community members may incorrectly assume that local health departments actively monitor and address potential concerns arising from large animal production sites.
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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 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.