'It smells like a decomposing body': North Carolina's polluting pig farms
In September 2016, with Hurricane Hermine bearing down on North Carolina, Kemp Burdette rented a single-engine plane and flew over Duplin county. Burdette, a riverkeeper with the environmental group Cape Fear River Watch, was worried that some of the local pig farmers might try to drain their manure lagoons before the rains hit, to prevent them from overflowing. Spraying waste is illegal just before storms because of the risk that runoff from saturated fields will contaminate waterways.
As he flew, Burdette estimated that he saw at least 35 farms spraying their fields. He took high-resolution, GPS-stamped photographs and videosdocumenting the apparent violations, and then filed a complaint with the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), hoping the evidence would move the agency to act. He and his colleagues did the same a month later, just before the devastating Hurricane Matthew. “This isn’t just one bad actor,” he said. “This was widespread – complete disregard for the rules.”