Environmental injustices in Southeastern North Carolina

By Kristin Power

Far too long have non-white communities in North Carolina had to suffer from injustices. More recently, these communities in the eastern part of the state have been enduring environmental inequities due to the large concentration of hog and poultry farms. The problem is commercial hog farms are permitted to be placed (by the state of North Carolina) within proximity to already existing residencies. The counties in which they are established are predominantly black counties. These farms utilize open-air waste lagoons and spray fields. The residents of these counties “had higher mortality due to infections, anemia, kidney disease, and perinatal conditions, and higher rates of hospital admissions and ED visits for LBW infants. The observed higher rate of all-cause mortality is consistent with the lower life expectancy in this area” (Kravchenko, Rhew, Akushevich, Agarwal, & Lyerly, 2018).

I believe this to be systemic injustice because the state of North Carolina is permitting these farms to be within proximity to preexisting homes. Furthermore, North Carolina is not addressing the environmental inequities faced by these residents. In the latest public hearing, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality stated, “cumulative health impacts are not currently in the Department’s purview” (Poupart, 2019).

In my opinion, a simple change in how hog waste is handled would be a solution. Also, future hog and poultry farms should not be permitted to be established unless a specified distance from residential areas is met. NCDEQ should also be reviewed based on the blatant disregard of the communities’ health disparities as a result of hog and poultry farms.

This problem is relatable to the hardships, injustices, and inequities faced by Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis. These people are trying to fight for equality. However, these people are fighting for equality long after the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Here are two links describing the situation:





Kravchenko, J., Rhew, S. H., Akushevich, I., Agarwal, P., & Lyerly, H. K. (2018). Mortality and Health Outcomes in North Carolina Communities Located in Close Proximity to Hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. North Carolina Medical Journal79(5), 278–288. doi: 10.18043/ncm.79.5.278

Poupart, J. (2019). Environmental Justice. In Hearing Officer’s Report and Response to Public Comments for the Renewal of the State General Permits for Animal Feeding Operations (pp. 24–24). NCDEQ. Retrieved from https://files.nc.gov/ncdeq/Water Resources/Report-of-Proceedings-FInal-04.11.2019.pdf