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Investigators' drone footage reveals disturbing scenes on farms: 'Hopefully, this will lead to increased public pressure'

Related issues include anemia, infant deaths, kidney disease, and septicemia.

Related issues include anemia, infant deaths, kidney disease and septicemia.

Photo Credit: iStock

Waterkeeper organizations in the state of North Carolina have taken to the skies to gather evidence of ongoing water contamination caused by an increasing number of nearby industrial-scale hog and poultry farms.

Larry Baldwin and Rick Dove, colleagues at an international nonprofit focused on clean water called the Waterkeeper Alliance, explained to Inside Climate News that they use drones to capture footage of waste being discarded into nearby creeks and waterways, which is a threat to public health. 

"These Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, are spread over large areas, mostly in rural North Carolina, and it's not easy to discover a violation from the road," Baldwin said. "That is why we have to get into these small planes to see from above if a swine or poultry facility is committing a violation."

Some of the footage was included in a video report posted to YouTube. According to Inside Climate News, Waterkeeper organizations have been "undertaking airborne sorties in privately chartered planes to document hog and poultry waste leaking into watersheds" for years. 

Similarly, an anti-animal cruelty nonprofit called Mercy For Animals recently captured drone footage of a dairy farm in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, that showed open-air pits of animal waste sitting next to a residential neighborhood.

Baldwin said he would take pictures in order to support ongoing investigations into livestock operations that were potentially "illegally contaminating water with waste from open pits of hog feces and urine." In addition to documenting potentially illegal waste management practices by CAFO operators, Baldwin's goal included monitoring "the increasing proliferation of large-scale hog and poultry operations into areas with low-income communities of color."

Fine particulate air pollution caused in part by ammonia emissions from hog operations was listed as the cause of 95 premature deaths annually in North Carolina's Sampson County and 83 such deaths in Duplin County, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences.

Research from Duke University determined that minority neighborhoods in North Carolina are "disproportionately impacted by hog farm pollution and face myriad health problems from the pollution, including anemia, infant deaths, kidney disease and septicemia."

The lack of regulations in the hog and poultry farm industries has left communities largely unable to combat the issues, which is why the Waterkeeper organizations are so determined to raise awareness about the threats to public health.

"Hopefully, this will lead to increased public pressure that can get the state to do the right thing," Baldwin said.

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