Hundreds of open-air lagoons filled with manure could overflow from heavy rain caused by Hurricane Florence. In an area just inland from the North Carolina coast, there are more hogs than people. Of the many hog farms in the area, each has one or more lagoons that are vulnerable to flooding.
These manure filled lagoons are a cheap way to handle animal waste. It acts like a compost pile, with bacteria feeding on the waste producing a pink color.
The lagoons are open to the weather, with Hurricane Florence on the way. Environmentalists and farmers are concerned that a bunch of manure will soon wash into the rivers.
To prevent catastrophic environmental damage, farmers are spending their day pumping liquid manure of the lagoons, spraying it as fertilizer on nearby fields. If farmers can remove enough of the manure, there will be enough room for incoming rainfall.
In the worst-case scenario, water will start to overflow and erode the lagoon wall, causing the wall to collapse. With a collapsed wall, animal manure will be spread across the landscape and into nearby rivers.
Rising water could also flood low-lying hog houses that will need to be evacuated before the flood water rises.
After Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state of North Carolina shut down many of the hog farmers in low-lying areas because the manure-filled lagoons were compromised. With more lagoons flooding again during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Luckily, no lagoon walls collapsed that time.
Hurricane Florence could be much worse than either of these previous two storms, causing many to worry. With much luck, the lagoons will survive the storm and the state will finally remove the last of these environmental dangers out of the low-lying flood plains.