EPA and Murphy Farms settle lawsuit for Clean Water Act violations at five hog farms

EPA and Murphy Farms have settled a Clean Water Act lawsuit regarding five hog farms in Magnolia, North Carolina, under which the company will take specific measures to prevent waste discharges and pay a $72,000 fine.

July 12, 2001—The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that an agreement has been reached with Murphy Farms and D.M. Farms of Rose Hill to take measures to prevent future waste discharges at five hog farms in Magnolia, N.C., and to pay a $72,000 fine.

This agreement represents a settlement of a civil judicial action for violations of the Clean Water Act filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of EPA's Atlanta Regional Office and by three citizens organizations: the American Canoe Association, the Professional Paddlesports Association and the Conservation Council of North Carolina.

The terms of the settlement are embodied in a proposed Consent Decree and Consent Order and Protocol lodged this week with the United States District Court in Wilmington, North Carolina. The lodged documents will now be subject to public review and comment for 30 days.

EPA and citizen lawsuits alleged a number of illegal discharges to the Cape Fear River Basin from swine operations in violation of the Clean Water Act. An earlier decision by the District Court resulted in the State of North Carolina issuing to D.M. Farms the first National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the State.

Because of the environmental and health concerns created by the concentration of large swine CAFOs in eastern North Carolina, EPA has been working with North Carolina to ensure development of an effective NPDES/CAFO permitting program within the State. Measures called for in the Consent Decree include stream buffers; marking of spraying areas; inspections; training of personnel; taking certain sprayfield areas out of service; and record keeping. The NPDES permit contains substantial additional measures to prevent discharges.

Enforcement in the CAFO arena has been highlighted as a national priority by EPA, as set forth in EPA's Clean Water Action Plan released in February 1998 and the Department of Agriculture-EPA Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations released in March 1999. Animal waste and wastewater can enter water bodies from spills or breaks of waste storage structures (due to accidents or excessive rain), and non-agricultural application of manure to crop land.

These wastes have the potential to contribute pollutants such as nutrients (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus), organic matter, sediments, pathogens, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics and ammonia to the environment. These pollutants can cause several types of water quality and public health impacts, such as contamination of drinking water supplies and fish kills.

As a result of market forces and technological changes, the past several decades have seen substantial changes in the animal production industry including the expansion of confined production units, the concentration of large farms in the same geographic area, and vertical integration. These changes have brought an increased risk to water quality and public health because of the amount of manure and wastewater CAFOs generate.

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