So far, Hurricane Florence has shown to be almost twice as destructive as Hurricane Matthew, which hit the Southeastern region of The United States in late 2016. Hurricane Florence made a landfall just around Wilmington, North Carolina in early September.
Only a week later, by September 19th, Hurricane Florence had caused over 13 manure lagoons to overflow, and around 55 more are expected to succumb to rising waters as well, and all of this is happening at a remarkably fast pace.
A research team has concluded that over 3 million chickens and turkeys, as well as over 5,000 pigs have been trapped in multiple factory farms in North Carolina. Of course, farmers are expected to return back to their properties in the following weeks in order assess their losses.
Exactly 13 pig manure lagoons are currently overflowing, as of 19th September 2018, and around 55 more will overflow by the next day. Adding even more fuel to the fire, the walls of four manure lagoons have suffered quite a lot of damage in their infrastructure, causing a massive flow of raw animal waste to flow out of them in the local water systems.
In addition to all of this, the government has found around 2 million dead chickens, but it is highly likely that this number will continue to rise. Most of this poultry belonged to the third largest chicken producer in the country – Sanderson Farms, which produces more than 10 million chickens on a weekly basis across The United States.
A recent press release by Sanderson Farms has reported that 30 of its largest chicken suppliers are now out of power and are extremely difficult to reach. Each one of these farms has around 200,000 chickens, which in total makes around 6 million. These are innocent, 6 million chickens which cannot be fed in any way or form due to the current situation.
Also, to add insult to injury, it has been predicted that the local drinking waters will be severely contaminated in the following several months, reports the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr. In one of his most recent announcements he states:
“These waters contain raw animal waste, human waste, petrochemicals, and potentially coal-ash. This is just a nasty mixture of pollutants.”
A couple of years back, researchers published a paper in the N.C. Medical Journal, concluding that people who live in close proximity of industrial hog farms have higher rates of infant mortality, kidney problems, tuberculosis, hospital admissions and many other illnesses. Of course, with the current sanitary circumstances, these health risks are massively magnified, reports Kim Lyerle – the Duke University pathology and immunology professor.
“When you have a flood, it’s all a giant exposure to all the content within the ground” – he describes.
After the disaster caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, one hog waste lagoon failed, and 14 other were flooded as well. A recent assessment by research teams finds out that Hurricane Matthew had a colossal impact on the states’ water quality. These researchers found out that the local waters in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina had high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in their waterways, even four months after the hurricane passed.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency stated on Tuesday, 18th September, that it is currently monitoring hog lagoons in order to properly assess the impact they might have on the downstream drinking water.
The Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Katy Langly reported to a local newspaper that there are exactly 62 industrial hog farms in the state’s 100 year floodplain. These are all contributing to a dead zone that is just off the coast of North Carolina. This dead zone could very soon rival the dead zone off the Gulf Coast. These “death zones” are water areas that have encountered massive ecological trauma, and thus have hypoxic bottom waters. They form when there is an excess of nitrogen, phosphorus and fossil fuels.
The organization of the Riverkeeper Katy Langly – Sound Rivers, advocates that the state assists the local hog farmers in their debts to Smithfield, in exchange for promising to not utilize the local land for animal production in the future. We will see in the upcoming months how this terrible tragedy will extend.