3 days later, samples point to contamination

A hog lagoon spill into a tributary of the Trent River is affecting water quality three days later.

According to the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, a hog lagoon on the D.C. Mills Farm on Lees Mills Road near Trenton spilled 1 million gallons of hog waste into Tuckahoe Creek, a tributary of the Trent River near Trenton, on Monday.

Public notice of the spill was not released until Wednesday.

On Thursday, samples taken by Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Katy Hunt pointed at elevated levels of E. coli in the water downstream, at a point where three other tributaries had joined the flow of the creek, and just before it joins the Trent River.

“The bacteria level more than doubled 3.25 miles downstream of the facility after two solid days between the spill and the time of sampling,” Hunt said.

Upstream of the spill, Hunt took samples that showed 75.4 ppm of the bacteria E. coli in the water. Downstream, those levels were 193.5 ppm.

E. coli is found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While many strains are harmless, others can cause illness, therefore E. coli is used as an indicator for recent fecal contamination of waterways. People swimming or recreating in waters with fecal bacteria levels higher than the recreational water quality standard have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness or skin infections.

D.C. Mills Farm received notices of violation this summer and again in November for high lagoon levels. The farm is permitted for 3,520 animals and is affiliated with Murphy-Brown, LLC.