Saturday, July 28, 2007
The North Carolina House voted unanimously to accept a bill that would replace hog lagoons with more environmentally friendly systems. Under the bill, Senate Bill 1465, existing lagoons could continue to operate but, no new lagoons could be built. Hog lagoons have led to polluted waterways during floods and created intolerable living conditions for neighbors. I cosponsored Rep. Carolyn Justice’s stronger House companion, House Bill 1115. The state has had a moratorium on new lagoons for the past 10 years, but replacing them with new, cleaner technology is expensive. The bill proposes a $2 million a year cost-sharing program to help farmers pay the cost of replacing the pits with systems that meet performance standards relating to odor, toxins, contaminants, or nutrients. The new systems could produce useful byproducts such as compost or electricity from the methane gas released. The bill is supported by environmental, farm, and industry groups, and would represent a major step forward after years of trying to find better ways to handle hog waste. The compromise will protect farmers’ investments and livelihoods while also keeping the state’s waters and soil clean. I share the concerns of many advocates who want a date certain for the phaseout of existing lagoons which the bill does not contain. The bill now goes to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature.