$1 million hog waste fine will protect river

$1 million hog waste fine will protect river

Source: Star-News, July 25, 2012
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The N.C. Coastal Land Trust will receive $1 million over five years as part of the punishment for Freedman Farms, a Columbus County hog farm that released more than 324,000 gallons of untreated waste into a stream that feeds the Waccamaw River in 2007.

The Wilmington-based Coastal Land Trust will use the money to build streamside buffers along the Waccamaw to try to capture sediment and pollutants before they enter the river, which flows through Columbus and Brunswick counties before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina. The land trust staff will use the money to acquire land and conservation easements along the river.

“The amount of restitution ordered in this case will allow us to permanently protect a large swath of the Waccamaw River corridor, hopefully many hundreds of acres,” said Camilla Herlevich, the nonprofit’s executive director, at a news conference Wednesday morning in Raleigh.

She added that she hoped the money would enable the organization to leverage additional grants for similar work.

Freedman Farms was sentenced in February to five years of probation and ordered to pay a total of $1.5 million in fines, restitution and community service payments after violating the federal Clean Water Act when it intentionally discharged the waste into Browder’s Branch in December 2007, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The Columbus County facility had about 4,800 hogs at the time and remains in operation today. The hog waste was supposed to be directed to two lagoons for treatment and disposal, but instead was pumped into Browder’s Branch. Roughly half of the waste — about 169,000 gallons — was recovered, federal officials said.

In addition to the $1 million to the Coastal Land Trust, Freedman Farms was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine, $75,000 of which went to the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network, which will use the money for environmental crimes training for investigators in the district.

The farm’s owner, William B. Freedman, was sentenced to six months in federal prison and six months of home confinement after pleading guilty to “negligent violation” of the Clean Water Act. Freedman Farms also is required to implement environmental compliance and annual training programs.

The Coastal Land Trust is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It has protected nearly 50,000 acres, including beaches, streams, forests, farms and nature parks. Herlevich said the $1 million award is the largest the organization has received from a court settlement.

Check back later for more on this developing story.

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