Despite press reports to the contrary, legislation in North Carolina that was passed by the General Assembly does not phase out existing swine lagoons, according to a spokesman for the North Carolina Pork Council (NCPC).

“We worked hard on this bill (Senate Bill 1465) and are pleased with the fact that it clearly states that existing facilities have the right to continue to operate as they are today,” says Deborah Johnson, chief executive office of the NCPC.

“Unless some new technological breakthrough happens, we will have lagoons and sprayfields for the foreseeable future,” she adds.

The Senate bill states, “an animal waste management system that serves a swine farm for which a permit was issued prior to Sept. 1, 2007…may continue to operate under, and shall operate in compliance with, that permit, including any renewal of the permit.”

The Senate bill authorizes holders of permits for lagoons issued prior to Sept. 1, 2007 to construct a replacement lagoon provided it meets all applicable state and federal standards and does not result in an increase in the permitted capacity.

What the new legislation does do is make the decade-old moratorium against new swine lagoons permanent.

“Producers can still build farms using other technologies if they meet the criteria outlined in the bill,” Johnson explains. A cost-sharing grant program also would help the first farms to install new swine waste technologies. Both North Carolina House and Senate budget proposals call for $2 million in annual funding for the grant program.

The measure was unanimously approved in the Senate July 25 and is on its way to Gov. Mike Easley to be signed into law.

The bill also creates a pilot program whereby producers can utilize methane from their treatment systems to produce electricity which can then be sold to utility companies at attractive prices.

According to Johnson there are 2,300 permitted hog farms in North Carolina, all with swine lagoon and sprayfield systems.

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