DEQ investigating Bladen County hog waste spill from farm into nearby creek

Google Maps

Nearly 30,000 gallons of hog waste spilled into a Bladen County creek late last Friday night, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

Murphy-Brown Farm 7692 near Ammon spilled the waste. Murphy-Brown, which owns the farm, is a Smithfield Foods subsidiary.

Friday evening, the farm notified DEQ’s Division of Water Resources that a recirculation pipe had failed, resulting in the spill of untreated animal waste, according to a press release. State environmental officials observed waste nearly three-quarters of a mile away from a containment system on the farm.

A beaver dam in Little Turnbull Creek appeared to contain the waste that reached the waterway, according to the DEQ press release.

Workers at the farm pumped waste from the creek throughout the weekend, starting Friday night and finishing Monday morning, according to Josh Kastrinsky, a DEQ spokesman.

Division of Water Resources staff took samples at five locations in Little Turnbull Creek downstream of the spill, Kastrinsky wrote. Lab results from the samples are expected back later this week.

The farm is permitted to grow 4,000 hogs at a time.

State fines Wayne County farm for food and hog waste spill from anaerobic digester

During the farm’s most recent inspection, on March 8, 2022, DEQ staff found no evidence of discharge to nearby waters and determined that its lagoons had adequate space for waste produced by the hogs grown there.

In August 2020 and again in February 2021, the facility recorded that its lagoon had filled up enough that it was within 20.4 inches of the top, the level of so-called freeboard it is required to maintain.

Farms are required to keep enough room in their lagoons to hold rainwater from a a storm that has a one-in-25 chance of happening in a given year.

The high freeboard incidents resulted in DEQ issuing the Murphy-Brown facility a notice of deficiency in May 2021.

This story was produced with financial support from 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.