S**tStorm: Florence Brews a Toxic Poop Soup in NC | Climate Denial Crock of the Week
Before Florence made landfall, hog farms had been frantically trying to lower the level of those lagoons by spraying the waste on fields. But as of noon Tuesday, four hog lagoons in the hurricane area had been breached, 13 had overflowed and nine had been inundated. Another 55 were at or almost at capacity and in danger of overflowing, according to the Department of Environmental Quality.
“You basically have a toxic soup for people who live in close proximity to those lagoons,” said Sacoby Wilson, a professor of public health at the University of Maryland. “All of these contaminants that are in the hog lagoons, like salmonella, giardia, and E-coli, can get into the waterways and infect people trying to get out.”
These lagoons contain large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, which farmers spray as fertilizer onto nearby fields. In excess, these nutrients are also a primary contributor to algae blooms and so-called “dead zones,” large areas with such low levels of oxygen that animals can’t survive. Some, like the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is so big it can be seen from space.
Nitrogen from agricultural runoff is also the primary contributor to dangerous levels of nitrate in drinking water across parts of the U.S., which has been linked to different kinds of cancers and blue baby syndrome, a potentially fatal infant condition.
Below, the Cape Fear River is expected to crest today – almost 27 feet – like a 3 story building – above flood stage.