A first-of-its-kind interactive map revealing the locations of more than 6,500 concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, across the state of North Carolina was released Wednesday by Waterkeeper Alliance, North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations and Environmental Working Group (EWG).
In addition to swine and cattle CAFOs, the project documents the locations of more than 3,900 poultry operations, which up until now have been shielded from the people of North Carolina.
The maps, which EWG and Waterkeeper Alliance researchers spent more than three years making, provide a never-before-seen aerial view of the CAFOs blanketing the state. This includes the manure lagoons from swine operations, detailing how close they are to streams, rivers and other public water sources.
“For far too long, North Carolinians have been kept in the dark about the true impact these industrial factory farms are having on communities and waterways,” Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance, said.
“Information is power and now that these sites are definitively identified, we will hold accountable the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for enforcing the Clean Water Act and fixing these massive pollution problems.”
The maps feature satellite photos of each of the thousands of facilities.
The unprecedented mapping project identifies approximate locations of all swine, poultry and cattle CAFO operations in the state, as well as the size of the operations. The online maps allow users to view total estimated waste outputs on a facility, watershed, county or statewide scale. All told, researchers from the groups estimate more than 10 billion pounds of wet animal waste and 2 million tons of dry animal waste is generated annually in North Carolina from CAFOs, leaving tens of thousands of rural residents susceptible to air and water quality contamination.
“Animal agriculture operations are one of the leading sources of water and air pollution in the country and are making people sick,” Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG, said.
“These maps show for the first time, that thousands of CAFOs and the animal waste they produce are often adjacent to communities and vital water sources.”
Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources published a wide-ranging study showing elevated levels of both nitrates and ammonia in waterways near hog CAFOs in eastern North Carolina. Researchers behind the three year USGS/DENR study found that “animal feeding operations have measurable affects on stream water quality in many agricultural watersheds in the North Carolina Coastal Plain” with nearly 60 percent of the watersheds where CAFOs are located having “distinct differences in water quality reflecting swine and/or poultry manure effects.”