As Hurricane Dorian pummeled the Carolinas Thursday, environmentalists warned the powerful storm could unleash millions of tons of manure and other animal waste if it floods the factory farms situated on the North Carolina coast.
Soren Rundquist, who studies the expansion of factory farms for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said "the most important thing right now is that people stay safe" as the hurricane bears down on the southeast U.S.
"But we're also watching the thousands of North Carolina factory farms that sit directly in Dorian's projected path," said Rundquist. "The heavy rainfall could flood poorly located factory farms, spreading untold tons of hog, chicken, and turkey waste along the coastal plain."
Green groups and North Carolina residents have good reason to worry that a powerful storm like Dorian could flood factory farms and release tons of manure into the state's rivers and creeks.
Last September, according to EWG, Hurricane Florence flooded or breached more than 130 pig manure lagoons and dozens of poultry operations.
EWG said the possible spread of factory farm manure could pose a severe public health hazard, as life-threatening bacteria could contaminate sources of public drinking water.
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"Farm animal manure contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella," EWG said in a press release. "Pollution from the chemicals in livestock waste also triggers toxic algae blooms... After Florence, at least 73 tap water systems serving over a half-million people issued advisories for residents to boil water that may have been contaminated by floodwaters."
EWG's warning came as Hurricane Dorian caused major power outages, flooding, and "slew" of tornadoes in the Carolinas.
Imagine a TORNADOerupting in your backyard just as a record-breaking hurricane barrels closer.
That's happening all over the Carolinas right now as #DorianNC persists. This is the #ClimateCrisis.pic.twitter.com/R71gyLREAy
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) September 5, 2019
As the New York Times reported Thursday, "Dorian's center was far away, but its tropical-storm-force winds extended nearly 200 miles from its center, and its effects could be felt in Wilmington, a port city of about 122,000 on North Carolina's southeastern coast."