06/12/04 — Another researcher finds no increase in pollution

View Archive

Another researcher finds no increase in pollution

Once again an authentic study tends to discredit the widely held notion that eastern North Carolina’s rivers are being polluted by hog farms.

The results of the latest study were announced Monday in Raleigh. This study was conducted by Dr. Dwayne R. Edwards of the University of Kentucky. It was commissioned by a nonprofit organization of hog farmers called Frontline Farmers.

The members of Frontline Farmers naturally would like for any study to show that what they do is safe for the rivers. If they had conducted the study and announced positive results, it might raise suspicions.

But Edwards would have no reason to report anything except the facts of what his review revealed. He is a full professor in the University of Kentucky’s School of Agriculture. He earned a doctorate degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Oklahoma and is a former teacher and researcher at the University of Arkansas. He has studied the effect of agriculture on streams for many years. He would have every reason to protect his reputation as a scientist.

Edwards reviewed data that the state had collected over 32 years on the nutrients in the waters of the Neuse, Cape Fear, Tar-Pamlico and White Oak rivers.

What he found was similar to the results of a review conducted earlier by Alex Avery of the Center for Global Food Issues in Virginia. Avery studied the nutrients in Cape Fear River tributaries. Both Avery and Edwards discovered that there was no increase in nutrients corresponding with the increase in swine operations in the region.

This is altogether plausible — and not just because Edwards and Avery are reputable researchers.

Those who claim hog farming is polluting the waters say that the nutrients in hog wastes from lagoons, sprayed onto fields, run off into the creeks and rivers. But nutrients have been added to croplands for many decades, and it is quite believable that the fertilizer from lagoon spray would cause no more runoff than other fertilizers that it supplanted.

The spray is used under restricted conditions. Only limited amounts can be applied to pre-approved fields, and it must be applied by schooled and tested people using calibrated equipment. None can be applied when enough rain has fallen to saturate the soil. It cannot be applied within certain distances of streams.

Because there are no such restrictions on dry fertilizer, it is understandable that there may not be any more — and there may be even less — river pollution since hog farming began on a large scale.

There is no reason to doubt the findings of these last two studies.

Published in Editorials on June 12, 2004 10:34 PM