Everyone should be able to cultivate a garden, open her windows, or join a church picnic on a sunny day.
For the neighbors of North Carolina’s industrial hog operations — who are more likely to be African-American, Native American, or Latino than the rest of the state’s population — these simple pleasures are not always possible.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s civil rights office interviewed 85 neighbors of North Carolina hog operations in 2016, hearing their complaints about a stench that “permeates homes, cars, and clothing.” Finding the complaints credible, the office wrote a Letter of Concern the next year to North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality:
“Residents, many of whom have lived in these communities for generations, described … an overpowering stench, pests — including a constant large number of flies — and the truck traffic all associated with the hog operations (that) have forced residents to keep doors and windows closed and significantly limit any outdoor activity.… Some residents said the strength of the odor can be so strong it causes gagging, nausea and/or vomiting.”
Neighbors who used to hunt and fish said they stopped because of odors and fear of contamination. Neighbors said they were concerned about the safety of their well water. Neighbors said they were forced to invest in bottled water, clothes dryers, air fresheners, pesticides, air conditioning units, and food.
The conclusion: EPA’s office of civil rights expressed “deep concern about the possibility that African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans have been subjected to discrimination” as a result of how North Carolina’s regulates industrial swine operations.
This conclusion, and years of advocacy by concerned North Carolinians, spurred a 2018 civil rights agreement that requires North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality to develop an environmental justice mapping tool that will inform its analyses and its actions.
The Department is accepting comments about its proposed mapping tool through July 10.
Stand with the neighbors living with the air and water pollution from these operations by filing your comment today.