Hogging the Groundwater: Water Quality and Economic Impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in Eastern North Carolina

Authors: Thomas Vogel*, East Carolina University, Randall Etheridge, East Carolina University, Jacob Hochard, University of Wyoming, Ariane Peralta, East Carolina University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Environment
Keywords: water quality, GIS, groundwater
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 52
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Rural eastern North Carolina relies heavily on unregulated private groundwater wells for household drinking and sanitation. Currently, the eastern North Carolina counties of Duplin and Sampson lead the nation in pork production and use open-air waste storage systems that place additional sources of contamination in close proximity to shallow residential drinking water wells. During extreme rain or flood conditions, such as those occurring during Hurricane Florence, the open-air lagoons can overflow, release untreated waste, and contaminate surface and groundwater. While hog farming and processing remain critical to the local economy, the industry has created a persistent environmental burden on the region. Current literature indicates that the cost of water quality testing and the availability of accessible information about testing and contamination are significant barriers. The proposed study will be an interdisciplinary approach using both geoscientific and economic techniques to address two major questions: 1) do these communities experience greater vulnerability to flooding and well impairment from microbial and inorganic contaminants that cause gastrointestinal illness and other adverse health impacts? and 2) does locating private groundwater supplies near CAFOs increase contamination risk during flooding? Water quality implications will be examined using a combination of GIS, water quality testing, and hydrologic techniques. An economic study will examine the influence of different forms of printed notification on residential water quality testing behavior. While several studies examine the impact of receiving a notification as well as the impacts of different messages, little work examines the impact of changes in communication format on preventative testing.

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