Speaking truth to power, that’s what Elsie Herring does every day. On November 20, 2019, she is testifying in front of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about her experience living with the horrific practices industrial hog operations use to manage their waste. As Elsie writes in her testimony:
Sometimes people find it hard to believe that in an area where we have experienced catastrophic flooding in recent years because of hurricanes, an industry is allowed to keep billions of gallons of festering hog waste in open cesspools and then spray it into the air and onto land, in the process exposing us to a mist and stench of rotting animal sewage. But this practice is allowed under the state’s General Permit for Swine Operations, and spraying hog feces into the air alongside our homes is our everyday reality in eastern North Carolina.
Three years ago she and a dozen or so fellow community members and advocates traveled from Eastern North Carolina to Washington DC to deliver a petition to EPA. The ask was simple: just come see what we’re dealing with in hog country. Today, Elsie is back to speak truth to power, to let Congress know that they are still dealing with the same problems, but things have actually gotten worse. Multiple superstorms have hit the area, causing two so-called 500-year floods and leading many cesspools of feces to overflow. And as climate change intensifies, they face increasing threats from storms every year. On top of all that, the lagoon and sprayfield system got the green light for another 5 years.
She concludes her testimony:
I know that there's a better way to raise livestock and dispose of the waste than simply digging a hole in the ground and shooting it into the air. As far back as the early 2000s, a Blue Ribbon panel came up with five alternatives to the lagoon and sprayfield system, but the industry complained about the cost. Although experts believe costs have come down, the industry continues to rely on this primitive system that is hurting us. Those of us living near these facilities need the industry to adopt better waste controls. The industry cannot be allowed to continue to dump toxic material into our air and water.
I ask you to lead the way. I want a future where we can coexist, where we all have clean air and water, and those in power listen to the people, not just industry. I want you to bear witness to what is happening to my community. I want you to see the animal waste and its destruction, the ruin of the soil, the hurricanes that come one after another. I want you to see the disparities in how we are treated compared with people of another race, with more money, and more power. I want you to put a national moratorium in place on CAFOs because this is not safe. I want you to take a comprehensive look at the situation and make decisions that allow us to coexist.