June 17, 2008

Groups to Camp at Legislature to Protest Hog Lagoons

By Charlie Hall, Sun Journal, New Bern, N.C.

Jun. 17--For the second time in three weeks, members of the New Bern-based Neuse River Foundation will travel to Raleigh in a lobbying effort for cleaner water.

The second annual 51-Hour Hog Vigil begins Tuesday afternoon outside the legislative building and continues through 6 p.m. Thursday.

Earlier this month, the Neuse group and other river alliances and environmental groups from around the state took busloads of supporters to the state capital for the 8th annual Clean Water Lobby Day.

Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Larry Baldwin said the New Bern group had a lead role in this week's event.

"The purpose of the vigil is to let elected officials know that we were not in agreement with legislation passed last year, and they must do something to clean up the mess that the industrial hog industry has made in the local N.C. environment and communities," Baldwin said in a statement.

Neuse River Foundation volunteer Joanne Somerday was busy Monday packing three tents for the campout on the legislative grounds. She had a tent for herself and one for Neuse River Foundation board member Dail Young, and took an extra for anyone needing shelter.

She was also baking cupcakes for a birthday party event that organizers hope will bring home the clean water and air issues created by the open hog lagoons.

"We hope the legislators will get a better idea of how polluting the open lagoons are and how they affect the health of the people who live near them," she said. "The children in Duplin County have more respiratory problems than the general population and it's from the fumes from the open lagoons."

She said the air in areas around hog lagoon keeps residents inside.

"They can't even go outside and play or have birthday parties where they live," she said. "So, they can come to Raleigh and enjoy an outdoor party."

Along with the Neuse River Foundation, other groups scheduled to participate include the Riverkeepers from the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, New River Foundation, Cape Fear River Foundation and representatives from the Waterkeeper Alliance. Also sending representatives are the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help and the N.C. Environmental Justice Network.

Speakers will address the gathering Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., "to drive home the message that our goal is to remove lagoons and sprayfields completely from North Carolina," Baldwin said.

Baldwin encourages the public to attend.

"If you can, please bring your children, or your grandchildren or the neighborhood children to be a part of this event. We are, after all, fighting for their future," he said.

For information, contact the Neuse River Foundation at 637-7972.


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