The environmental threat posed by municipal wastewater systems

The environmental threat posed by municipal wastewater systems

Municipal waste plants often discharge raw human sewage directly into the waters of the state, in both periodic rain events and more significant storms. It happens year-round in all parts of the state. These circumstances are the result of what are called “sanitary sewer overflows” and/or direct bypasses of the treatment system itself.

In a hurricane with significant rainfall, it is almost a certainty that there will be a discharge from some municipal waste systems. Indeed, more than 120 million gallons of municipal waste was discharged into the surface waters from 200 municipal systems in Hurricane Florence.

When Hurricane Dorian hit the state in 2019, municipal systems reported discharging 1.5 million gallons of raw human waste in sewer overflows over a five-day period. Hog farms saw negligible impacts from the storm.

Indeed, it is not a certainty that a hog farm lagoon will release any contents from treatment lagoons into the waters of the state during a hurricane. By design and by law, farmers must maintain a “freeboard” of roughly 19 inches, precisely to protect the structural integrity of the lagoon and to absorb significant rain events. In practice, lagoons are managed more conservatively.

Moreover, if a hurricane is so severe that it is causing impacts to multiple hog farm lagoons, public officials and authorities understand that many municipal plants, affecting large populations of people, would in those circumstances also be experiencing more severe difficulty in containing and treating human waste.

-Taken from Summer 2020 NC Pork Report