Farm ordered to pay for illegal hog waste disposal

Published: Feb. 13, 2012 at 10:58 PM EST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2012 at 7:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A hog farm in Columbus County was ordered to pay $1.5 million in fines, restitution and community service payments for violations to the federal Clean Water Act, and the president of the farm will also serve time in prison.

Freedman Farms, Inc. allowed hog waste to enter into a stream that leads into the Waccamaw River.

The court sentenced William B. Freedman, president of the farms, to six months in prison plus six months of home confinement.

The farm will have to pay a half-million dollar criminal fine, plus $925,000 in restitution. A press conference was held on Wednesday. U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that $1 million in restitution will be given to the North Caorlina Coastal Land Trust to buy and preserve wetlands.

The farm will also have to pay a $75,000 community service payment to the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network. Additionally, the company will also have to start a comprehensive environmental compliance program.

"William Freedman and Freedman Farms will be held accountable for polluting waterways and wetlands in Columbus County and the Waccamaw River watershed," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice in an emailed news release. "Owners and operators of concentrated animal feeding operations must comply with the nation's Clean Water Act for the protection of America's streams, wetlands, and rivers."

The incident dates back to December 2007. Waste from roughly 4,800 hogs was meant for two lagoons for treatment and disposal. However, the waste ended up being discharged from Freedman Farms to Browder's Branch.

"It was about a mile long stream to Browder's Creek…to the swamp area," said John Farnell, Environmental Engineer, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources. "Through that whole mile-long creek it was full of the waste. And you could also see it on the other side into the swamp area.  It had planes fly over and they could actually see some of the liquid inside the swamp area as they flew over."

Environmentalists say that could have caused a lot of danger.

"You've got dangers to the environment by having all these nutrients dumped into our waterways, said Kemp Burdette of the Cape Fear River Watch. "You've got dangers to humans and the wildlife from all the bacteria in this waste."

Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.