During a debate last month over House Bill 467—which contained a failed provision to shield hog farms owned by a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods from twenty-six federal nuisance lawsuits brought by their neighbors—state Representative Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin and Wayne, called claims that hog waste was ending up on people's homes preposterous.
"These allegations are at best exaggerations and at worst outright lies," said Dixon, who has received more than $115,000 in campaign contributions from Big Pork. "When you talk about spraying fluid on people's houses and people's cars, that does not exist."
New evidence filed in federal court Friday, however, suggests that's exactly what happens.
To get rid of the waste of the thousands of pigs that are on site, hog farms liquify their urine and feces and spray the waste onto large fields via an irrigation system that runs from cesspools to massive sprinkler-like constructs that release mist. Those who reside near the fields have complained that this excrement ends up on their houses. These claims are central to the lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown, the Smithfield subsidiary.
The documents filed in court last week support these claims, showing the presence of Pig2bac, an "established DNA marker for identifying the presence of pig feces." The study, completed by Shane Rogers, a former EPA environmental engineer and an associate professor at Clarkson University in New York, relied on both air and physical samples collected from the house exteriors of the farms' neighbors.
To test for the presence of pig-manure DNA, Rogers and his team collected thirty-one samples from the outside walls of the homes and submitted them for DNA testing; fourteen of seventeen homes tested positive for Pig2bac. Additionally, all six of the dust samples they collected from the air "contained tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of hog feces DNA particles," Rogers wrote. "... Considering the facts, it is far more likely than not that hog feces also gets inside the clients' homes where they live and where they eat."
Around the same time that study was entered into court records, Governor Cooper vetoed HB 467—which, even without the provision nullifying the pending Murphy-Brown lawsuit, still seeks to prevent similar cases in the future.
The legislature will likely attempt to override the governor's veto next week.
This article appeared in print with the headline "+CRAP HITS FAN."