The state inspector knew immediately there was trouble at White Oak Farms. When she visited the Wayne County farm on Feb. 3, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality inspector saw a thick layer of hay laden with charcoal-colored foam in a ditch. That foam seemed to have oozed from under a black tarp covering a hog waste lagoon where manure was combined with unusual ingredients like liquified hog carcasses and discarded hot dogs and deli meat in a slurry to generate methane. The farm’s owners, including a former member of the National Pork Board, had not reported a spill. In a notice of violation dated Feb. 18, two weeks after the inspection, David May, a supervisor in DEQ’s Washington Regional Office, wrote that the inspector couldn’t tell how deep the foam was. But, May wrote, “the inspector stepped in that area sinking at least 4 inches on the edge.” White Oak Farms’ problems were just beginning. Four months later, on May 30, the black cover ruptured, sending an estimated three million gallons of the gelatinous gray foam across the farm and toward nearby Nahunta Swamp. By the time the spill ended weeks later, enough foam had spilled to fill more than four Olympic-sized swimming pools. At least 37,000 gallons had reached wetlands.
The News & Observer, 09-09-2022