Environmental Controversy Near Buffalo National River

English: General location of Buffalo River and...
General location of Buffalo River and its watershed in northern Arkansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ozark Society, Highlands chapter hosted a University of Arkansas geologist’s public seminar on the geology of C&H Hog Farm’s concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) and Buffalo National River.

Entitled “CAFO in Paradise: Benefits, Risks, and the Costs of Ignoring Science,” John Van Brahana, a professor emeritus, highlighted general geological concepts and applied them to the Mount Judea, Ark., and C&H Hog Farm area.

The Ozark Society is an environmental group founded by Neil Compton in 1962, originally as an effort to protect the remote Buffalo River from damming. The Buffalo River became the first federally protected river in 1972 and the group since broadened their objectives. The CAFO near Mount Judea is the first major threat to the Buffalo since.

Throughout 2013, there has been an uproar in Arkansas regarding the issuing of the state’s first CAFO permit. The farm granted the permit sits near a tributary that travels four miles to the United State’s first national river.

According to Arkansas Times, C&H Hog Farm will produce more than 2 million gallons of manure and wastewater every year, and waste eventually collects into storage ponds. Once filled, the farm will remove liquid waste and apply it as fertilizer on more than 600 acres of surrounding fields.

Brahana said seven of those surrounding fields are known to occasionally flood, which may lead to water contamination.

“When the flow is up, these streams have steep gradients and can erode,” Brahana said. “They can carry tremendous mass.”

Brahana said he worries about karst, or cave formations. The Buffalo River area hosts lots of caves and limestone, a porous rock that tends to erode into caves over time.

Brahana said storage ponds similar to those at C&H Hog Farm are known to turn to sinkholes, because the combined weight of waste and concrete breaks through cave ceilings. If the storage ponds collapse, all the contained waste will taint groundwater and, eventually, the area’s surface rivers.

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View of Buffalo River watershed from a hiking trail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I suspect the water quality issue is poised, right and waiting,” Brahana said. “As soon as they start, things will start to show up. There will be contamination.”

The Arkansas Times article noted agencies involved in C&H Hog Farm’s CAFO permit did not consult a geologist.

Brahana received a $4,000 donation from The Ozark Society Highlands chapter to continue researching effects the hog farm may have on geology and Buffalo River.

The Ozark Society partnered with Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club and National Parks Conservation Association to sue Farm Services Agency and Small Business Administration, the federal agencies that loaned the funds to build a CAFO.


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