Public Records Sought on Size, Location of Factory Farms in 8 'Hurricane Alley' States

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Data Critical to Protect Public Health, Environment During Storm Flooding

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed public records requests today seeking information from eight southeastern states on the size and location of concentrated animal-feeding operations potentially in the path of catastrophic hurricanes.

Today’s requests seek records from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, which are home to some of the nation’s largest concentrations of industrial animal-feeding operations, producing hundreds of millions of pounds of animal waste every year.

People living in Hurricane Alley desperately need accurate information about factory farms to protect themselves against exposure to toxic animal waste,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center. “As we learned last year in North Carolina and again this year in Texas we cannot quickly respond to industrial pollution released by catastrophic flooding unless we know the sources.”

As part of its responsibility to oversee the operation of major U.S. industries, the Environmental Protection Agency typically gathers a wide range of basic information, including the size and locations of industrial-scale operations. But when it comes to the nation’s sprawling concentrated animal feeding operations, which house millions of animals and produce more than 1 trillion pounds of animal waste every year, the EPA has complied with an industry request that it rely largely on states to provide that information.

“The Clean Water Act clearly gives the EPA authority to gather this important information, but the agency caved to industry pressure and said it would simply trust states to collect it,” said Connor. “The only way we can be sure that trust is warranted is to make sure the states have compiled accurate, up-to-date records.”

The importance of that information was highlighted last year when Hurricane Matthew struck the Southeast, causing catastrophic flooding in North Carolina, which is home to one of the nation’s highest concentrations of industrial animal-feeding operations.

Matthew’s flood waters not only resulted in 25 deaths across the Southeast but killed millions of confined hogs, chickens and turkeys in North Carolina factory farms and spewed a toxic slurry of animal waste across miles of the coastal floodplain, threatening public and environmental health.

During flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, North Carolina hog lagoons released tons of animal waste into the storm waters and coastal waterways, raising nitrogen levels and killing fish.

“We know catastrophic flooding from hurricanes is likely to become more common across the Southeast in coming years,” said Connor. “But we can’t do a good job of preparing for the health risks they pose and responding quickly to those threats when the big storms hit unless we know where to look.”

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