Petitioning EPA on Civil Rights Violations

The industrial hog facilities are disproportionately located in communities of color, where residents are forced to endure the smell and water quality impacts.

Case Overview

The North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help and Waterkeeper Alliance, supported by Earthjustice, have filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Civil Rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging that North Carolina’s lax regulation of hog waste disposal discriminates against communities of color in eastern North Carolina.

The complaint is the latest chapter in a longstanding struggle to address the community health impacts posed by massive amounts of fecal waste from industrial hog facilities. Community members have repeatedly asked the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for stronger protections, but are now seeking help from the EPA, stating that a recent decision by DENR to issue a permit that will cover thousands of hog facilities without adequate waste disposal controls violates federal law and civil rights.

The permit continues to allow industry to flush hog feces and urine into open, unlined pits and then to spray this “liquid manure” onto nearby fields. This practice leads to waste contaminating nearby waters. The waste also drifts as mist onto neighboring properties, causing unbearable odors. The impact is worsened by the growth of the poultry industry in the state and the piles of chicken waste that often sit uncovered on fields for days on end.

These operations are disproportionately located in communities of color where neighbors are forced to endure the smell, water quality impacts and the embarrassment associated with the facilities operating near their homes.

An industrial hog facility in North Carolina.
An industrial hog facility in North Carolina. Hog feces and urine are flushed into open, unlined pits and then sprayed onto nearby fields. The practice leads to waste contaminating nearby waters, and drifting as "mist" onto neighboring properties. (Friends of Family Farmers)

Case Updates

April 8, 2021 In the News: CleanLaw

Environmental Racism in North Carolina Hog Farming

Alexis Andiman, Attorney, Sustainable Food & Farming Program, Earthjustice: “Title VI connects to health and the environment because many state agencies receive money from EPA and Title VI prevents those agencies from accepting that money and also authorizing pollution that has an unjustified unequal impact.”

A flooded factory farm waste lagoon in Goldsboro, N.C.
December 13, 2018 Article

A Stench That Sickens, and an EPA That Doesn’t Care

The public can comment through Dec. 14 on an EPA rule that would shield thousands of livestock facilities from reporting toxic emissions.

July 7, 2016 Article

The Price of Pork

A new report sheds light on the severity of North Carolina’s pig waste problems.