CHAPEL HILL - Perceptions that hog operations in North Carolina have been disproportionately established in poorer communities across the state and in areas with more non-white residents are accurate, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes.
Funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Environmental Justice Program, researchers analyzed 1998 data from the N.C. Division of Water Quality on intensive hog operations and 1990 data from the U.S. census. They conducted the study in cooperation with the Concerned Citizens of Tillery, a community-based organization headed by Gary R. Grant.
"The presence of intensive hog operations was clearly related to poverty levels, predominance of black and non-white populations and dependence of households on well water for drinking," said Dr. Steven Wing, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC-CH School of Public Health.
Wing presented the findings Wednesday (March 17) in New Orleans at the 38th annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology.
"Previous studies have shown that since the early 1980s, hog production in North Carolina has moved from dispersion throughout the state to being concentrated in the coastal plain," he said. "During the same time, the average size of a hog facility has increased as corporate growers expanded larger operations and smaller independent producers went out of business. Although previous reports have shown that hog production is greater in counties with larger black populations, the extent to which operations were disproportionately located in poor and non-white communities was not known."
Before conducting their research, Wing and his colleagues had to complete geographic information that was missing or incorrect for 257 hog operations and excluded 67 that had closed, had insufficient data, didn't use a liquid waste management system or were owned by universities.