Waterkeeper Alliance’s (WKA) Pure Farms, Pure Waters Campaign addresses North Carolina’s failure to regulate pollution from the devastating impact of industrial factory farms. Pure Farms employs public outreach and education, community support, partnership building, regulatory reform, litigation, and field investigation to expose and reform industry practices, clean up NC’s waterways, and force state and federal governments to enforce the requirements of the Clean Water Act.


General Permit: As a result of WKA and partner advocacy, the permits governing industrial swine, cattle, and wet poultry facilities were substantively changed for the first time in decades, including additional transparency and monitoring requirements. The resulting general permits were challenged by the NC Farm Bureau, and WKA is involved in strategies to prevent the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from backsliding in an effort to settle the case.

Swamp Waters: To avoid legal obligations to address existing impaired water quality in the lower Cape Fear basin, the DEQ reclassified a portion of the river as “swamp waters.” With partners, WKA successfully persuaded the US Environmental Protection Agency to reject this change. Now the DEQ must initiate rulemaking to restore the appropriate classification and evaluate factors, such as CAFOs, that contribute to in-stream impairment of the Cape Fear.

Increased Water Quality Monitoring: WKA recently equipped local Waterkeepers with new tools enabling cost-effective, high-quality evaluation of water quality. Each Waterkeeper now has the capacity for in-house evaluation of bacteria levels in water quality samples and they are using this equipment across the state to conduct water quality monitoring in support of advocacy to adopt an E. coli water quality standard.

Title VI Implementation: WKA continues to meet with DEQ to ensure progress in the implementation of an important Title VI civil rights settlement and push the agency to augment commitments. For example, WKA with partners is pushing for the development of an environmental justice tools to measure cumulative impacts on communities at the crossroads of multiple types of industry – and prevent further permitting of industry in these areas.

Legal Action: In conjunction with Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), and Winyah Rivers Alliance, WKA filed a constitutional challenge to H467 and S711, laws enacted in 2017 and 2018 that stripped legal remedies from North Carolinians harmed by nuisance conditions caused by animal agriculture operations.