TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Federal authorities have ordered the state's largest hog producer to investigate and fix apparent leaks in hog manure lagoons suspected of contaminating water wells in Major and Kingfisher counties.
The Environmental Protection Agency's order late Tuesday against Seaboard Farms Inc. is believed to be the first time nationwide the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act has been used against a major hog producer.
The act addresses hazardous and solid wastes.
``The hog or swine effluent is not a hazardous waste, but because it's leaking from the lagoon, we have the authority to address it under this particular statute,'' said EPA Region 6 spokesman David Bary.
EPA attorney Timothy Jones said the order identifies the leaking effluent as solid waste and does not apply to the waste in the lagoon or that which is applied to fields as fertilizer
The action is the second order brought by EPA this month against Seaboard.
The agency earlier demanded that Seaboard provide drinking water to four families whose private water supplies tested high for nitrates, something the EPA said indicated possible leaks in the company's hog lagoons.
Groundwater samples at the hog farms found nitrate concentrations at up to 10 times acceptable levels, the EPA said. The highest concentration in drinking water was 15 milligrams per liter. The acceptable level is 10 milligrams per liter.
Seaboard officials say the company is obeying pollution laws. They also have said the EPA's own data shows only one drinking well with a questionable nitrate level.
The company had 24 hours to tell the EPA of its intentions to comply with the latest order. It has several months to investigate the allegations.
``Part of the investigation will be for them to determine all sources contributing to the contamination,'' said Amber Whisnant, a RCRA enforcement officer for the EPA.
EPA officials said the company would have to bear the cost of the investigation, which would be overseen by the agency.