Nuisance Trials Shine Light on Pollution and Technology

Katy Langley: “Nuisance Trials Against Smithfield Foods Shine Light on Pollution & Technology”

Flooded hog waste pit and facility along the Neuse River post Hurricane Florence. Open air waste pits routinely lead to pollution of local waterways.

This spring a series of nuisance trials against multi-billion-dollar corporation Smithfield Foods began. These cases were filed by long time neighbors of industrial hog growing facilities. Neighbors have long suffered the negative side effects of living near these facilities and are finally using their voice to demand change from the corporation responsible; Smithfield Foods. They have had enough of the stink, the flies, and the poop that lands on their homes, cars, and children’s playsets. The lagoon and spray method of waste management is ineffective and outdated. It is also severely decreasing neighbors’ quality of life and their property values as evidenced in the trials.

So far three trials have been held and in all three the jury sided with the neighbors. A reminder that this is a jury of peers, not scientists, activists, lobbyists, etc. Just your average person who can clearly see when the evidence is presented, that these hog operations have been detrimental to the lives of those living near them. Another thing to keep in mind; all of the nuisance trials, past and future, have been filed against Smithfield Foods, not the farmers.

It seems like an obvious choice; the company should change its polluting system. Better waste management technologies exist. In fact, due to similar pressure in Missouri, the company began to implement superior waste management options. But in North Carolina, the company  and the lawmakers that support them, have been fighting to prevent any such beneficial change for our communities.

Despite the misinformation surrounding the intent of these cases, it is clear that a jury of peers agree that the industry is a polluting one, but also one that can be changed and improved to no longer negatively affect the environment and the lives of the people who live near them.

Three trials have come and gone and the company has now entered into mediation in the hopes of settling out of court with the remaining plaintiffs. The mediation is confidential and details of settlement terms may be sparse. Mediation does not guarantee a settlement, both parties could decide to stop the mediation and resume the trials as planned.

Nonetheless, the nuisance trials and resulting media coverage have peeled back the curtain on industrial swine operations. As the truth becomes clearer, our efforts to secure improved waste management on all industrial facilities improves. This is a long overdue change for North Carolina that will reduce water pollution and increase the health of our neighbors and communities.