worth saving: An example of the porous
rock in the Nippenose Valley's karst limestone terrain.
JERSEY SHORE, PA. Oct. 30, 2002 -- “We’re
not about ‘suburban sprawl’ and we’re not
against farming. We are local people who have lived here three
to four generations. We just want to protect our water and
Dave Hallow of Jersey Shore (Lycoming County) doesn’t
like the hard work of the Concerned Citizens of Nippenose
Valley (CCVN) to be disrespected and distorted in media pieces
on the simmering issue of factory farms in his community.
The group has gathered a powerful body of evidence to document
the subterranean fragility of their mountain-ringed valley,
but proposals for the valley’s first two intensive hog
feeding sites keep moving ahead.
Hallow serves on the CCNV board of directors.
CCNV is mounting a spirited defense of their home turf. Its
members are attending local meetings of permitting bodies;
investigating the dense connections between regulators, legislators
and business proponents of Pennsylvania-style factory farms;
and getting a crash-course in grassroots activism at the intersection
of agriculture, environmental protection, economic planning
and community values.
They are drawing on their own experiences, including those
who have farmed themselves for many years, and their desire
for the social and natural resource integrity of the valley.
They are linking with other groups who have expertise in bringing
accountability to industrial farming operations. They are
finding what they are up against, and the many groups who
are pursuing similar efforts against contract agriculture
for similar reasons in other places.
CCNV sent a delegation to the Farm Aid concert near Pittsburgh
in September. The group received excellent research presentations
at public hearings from geological experts and professors
from area colleges. CCVN is challenging actions by state officials
in the permitting process, and watch-dogging every aspect
of the process for the proposed two hog units.
At the heart of their determination to prevent the farms
is the concentration of hog manure in the waste lagoons for
the two finishing units. The volume would be equal to the
waste from 20,000 humans, without requirement for any waste-treatment
Collecting 5 million gallons of hog waste turns the natural
material from a beneficial fertility aid (when applied at
proper times in the proper manner at the proper rate) into
a much higher risk proposition. Floods, management errors
and structural failure can lead to leakage of the waste from
lagoons into surface and ground water.
The ecological impact of any leakage in the Nippenose Valley
would be greatly magnified by the extremely porous underground
limestone formations throughout the valley. The “karst”
formations – unique in extent within North America –
feature honeycombed and channeled bedrock by slightly acidic
water passing through it.
Disappearing streams, sinkholes (one appeared last week),
caves, springs and subterranean passageways that hold ground
water characterize the area. The porous nature of carbonate
rock allows many avenues for surface pollution to reach ground
water in formations that may reach to other valleys.
Hallow reasons that if solid-waste landfills are not permitted
in the valley, the pooled liquid wastes from hogs would reasonably
not be permitted, either. Further concern comes from the air
inversions that routinely fill the valley with fog. Trapped
by the surrounding mountains that prevent wind from moving
through, the fog doesn’t leave until it is burned off
by sunshine. Hallow says confinement barn odors would be a
serious problem in such an environment.
At its most recent meeting, the group’s steering committee
agreed to explore how CCNV can meaningfully encourage family-farm
scale, sustainable hog production. Hallow said their goal
is the long-term production of cattle, hogs, dairy and poultry
farms that promote rural economic development while guarding
For details -- including stunning photographs of the area’s
natural beauty -- check the group’s Web site at: http://sites.micro-link.net/limestone.