1.7 million chickens drown as NC rivers swollen by Hurricane Florence

About 1.7 million chickens have been killed in flooding from Florence as rising North Carolina rivers swamped at least 60 farm buildings where the animals were being raised for market, according to a major poultry producer.

Sanderson Farms said Tuesday the losses occurred at independent farms that supply its poultry processing plants. The company said its facilities suffered no major damage, but supply disruptions and flooded roadways had caused shutdowns at some plants.

In addition, about 30 farms near Lumberton have been isolated by flood waters, hampering the delivery of feed to animals. The lack of food could cause additional birds to die if access isn't restored quickly, the company said.

The N.C. Pork Council says some hogs also may have died when farms flooded, but that mortality figures are not yet available. The pork industry trade group says farmers have been working before and after the storm to move at-risk animals to higher ground. The industry lost about 2,800 hogs during flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The Department of Environmental Quality said the earthen dam at one hog lagoon in Duplin County had breached, spilling its contents. Another dozen of the pits containing animal feces and urine had either suffered structural damage, had wastewater levels go over their tops from heavy rains or had been swamped by floodwaters. Large mounds of manure are also typically stored at poultry farms.

Photos of the storm's destruction: 

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Destruction caused by Hurricane Florence
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Destruction caused by Hurricane Florence
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Neighborhoods are flooded after the storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Homes are flooded after a storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Volunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nuese and Trent rivers. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
An abandoned mini van sits on a flooded road near New Bern, NC on September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris lies on the ground at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc gas station damaged during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A fallen tree lies in front of a home during Hurricane Florence in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A fallen tree lies in front of a home during Hurricane Florence in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Residents walk along a street blocked by a fallen tree during Hurricane Florence in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Bloomberg Hurricane Florence�is delivering driving wind, pelting rain and torrential flooding to North Carolina, killing at least two people as it grinds through the region. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW BERN, NC - SEPTEMBER 14: Neighborhoods are flooded after the storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A house is seen destroyed from falling trees as hurricane Florence passes over in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A downed tree can be seen on Middle Street by the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A father and daughter learn that friends were injured and later died when a tree fell on their house during landfall of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. - A mother and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina, the first reported fatalities from Hurricane Florence, police said Friday. Wilmington police tweeted that the father was transported to the hospital with unspecified injuries. Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wilmington on Friday morning, battering the coastal city with strong winds and torrential rain. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, NC- SEPTEMBER 14: An unidentified women reacts to news of a home that a large tree fell on with three trapped after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 14, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. One man was taken out of the home in critical condition. Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington as a category 1 storm causing widespread damage and flooding along the Carolina coastline. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Flood waters from the Trent River inundate a park in Pollocksville, North Carolina on September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence. - Florence smashed into the US East Coast Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters. Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
A vehicle sits submerged in floodwaters due to Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Florences�plodding pace and catastrophic flooding could produce as much as $20 billion in damage and has already caused at least six deaths, even as it has weakened to a tropical storm. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WILMINGTON, NC - SEPTEMBER 15: Mike Pollack searches for a drain in the yard of his flooded waterfront home a day after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 15, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm Friday and at least five deaths have been attributed to the storm, which continues to produce heavy rain and strong winds extending out nearly 200 miles. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Debris lies on the ground at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc gas station damaged during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Florences�plodding pace and catastrophic flooding could produce as much as $20 billion in damage and has already caused at least six deaths, even as it has weakened to a tropical storm. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Flood waters lap at a high water warning sign that was partially pushed over by Hurricane Florence on Oak Island, North Carolina, U.S., September 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
An abandoned car's hazard lights continue to flash as it sits submerged in a rising flood waters during pre-dawn hours after Hurricane Florence struck in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A street light is downed on a flooded road as Hurricane Florence comes ashore on Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Water from the Neuse river floods the streets during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
The Union Point Park Complex is seen flooded as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A downed tree rests on a house during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S. September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A downed tree rests on a house during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Boats pushed away from the dock are seen on a street during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Rescue personnel use a small transport a flood victim and her animals to dry land from heavy rains from Florence, now a tropical storm, in New Bern, NC., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A sailboat is shoved up against a house and a collapsed garage Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, after heavy wind and rain from Florence, now a tropical storm, blew through New Bern, N.C. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A pickup truck drives on a flooded road past a farm house that is surrounded by flooded fields from tropical storm Florence in Hyde County, NC., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A downed tree uprooted by Hurricane Florence lies next to homes in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A member of the U.S. Coast Guard walks down Mill Creek Road checking houses after tropical storm Florence hit Newport N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
A member of the U.S. Coast Guard walks down Mill Creek Road checking houses after tropical storm Florence hit Newport N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
A 40-foot yacht lies in the yard of a storm-damaged home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The boat washed up with storm surge and debris from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)
Resident Joseph Eudi looks at flood debris and storm damage from Hurricane Florence at a home on East Front Street in New Bern, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)
FILE - This Feb. 19, 2014 file photo shows the L.V. Sutton Complex operated by Duke Energy from the Sutton Lake landing in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast. Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday night, Sept. 15, 2018, that about 2,000 cubic yards of ash have been displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington. (AP Photo/Randall Hill, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo provided by DroneBase, an aerial view of the Cape Fear River, N.C., in Buckhorn, N.C. is shown ahead of Hurricane Florence. Record flooding is expected on North Carolina's Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18. (DroneBase via AP, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 file photo, a man jogs down the boardwalk by the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. Record flooding is expected on Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent. The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Sept. 18. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 file photo, Joe Gore, left, and Joshua Adcock prepare for Hurricane Florence as they board up windows on a home in Emerald Isle N.C. Before and after a hurricane, Ace is the place. And Home Depot, Lowe’s, and many other hardware and building supply outlets. Not surprisingly, these companies plan for storms such as Hurricane Florence all year. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland, File)
Residents of an assisted living facility are evacuated to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. After blowing ashore as a hurricane with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Members of the Nebraska Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team help load an elderly resident onto a bus as they evacuate an assisted living facility to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Ernestine Crumpler, 80, is helped by members of the Nebraska Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team as they evacuate an assisted living facility to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Residents of an assisted living facility sit on a bus as they are evacuated to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Members of the Nebraska Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team help load an elderly resident onto a bus as they evacuate an assisted living facility to a church as a precaution against potential flooding the city could see from tropical storm Florence in Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Even though the sun shone in parts of the state Tuesday, major flooding is continuing after Florence's passage and is expected to worsen in some areas. Sixteen North Carolina rivers were at major flood stage Tuesday with an additional three forecast to peak by Thursday.

An environmental threat is also posed by human waste as low-lying municipal sewage plants flood. On Sunday, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority reported that more than 5 million gallons of partially treated sewage had spilled into the Cape Fear River after power failed at its treatment plant.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that 16 community water treatment facilities in North Carolina are unable to supply drinking water and that seven publicly owned sewage treatment works are non-operational due to the flooding.

Duke Energy is continuing cleanup operations Tuesday following a weekend breach at a coal ash landfill at its L.V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said a full assessment of how much ash escaped from the waterlogged landfill is ongoing. The company initially estimated Saturday that about 2,000 cubic yards (1,530 cubic meters) of ash were displaced, enough to fill about 180 dump trucks.

The coal-fired Sutton plant was retired in 2013 and replaced with a new facility that burns natural gas. The company has been excavating millions of tons of leftover ash from old pits there and removing the waste to a new lined landfill constructed on the property. The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury.

Photos from the site provided to AP by Cape Fear River Watch, an environmental advocacy group, show cascades of gray-colored water spilling from at least two breaches at the landfill and flowing toward Sutton Lake, the plant's former cooling pond which is now used for public recreation, including fishing and boating.

Sutton Lake drains into the Cape Fear River. Sheehan said Duke's assessment is that there was minimal chance any contaminants from the spill had reached the river.

At a different power plant near Goldsboro, three old coal ash dumps capped with soil were inundated by the Neuse River. Duke said they had no indication those dumps at the H.F. Lee Power Plant were leaking ash into the river.

Duke's handling of ash waste has faced intense scrutiny since a drainage pipe collapsed under a waste pit at an old plant in Eden in 2014, triggering a massive spill that coated 70 miles (110 kilometers) of the Dan River in gray sludge. The utility later agreed to plead guilty to nine Clean Water Act violations and pay $102 million in fines and restitution for illegally discharging pollution from ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants. It plans to close all its ash dumps by 2029.

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Follow Associated Press investigative reporter Michael Biesecker.

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