600,000 customers warned of drinking water as North Carolina's flooded hog farms, waste lagoons under scrutiny for contamination

Prior to Hurricane Florence’s arrival in the Carolinas, concerns were raised about the environmental and health risks of the storm. There was fear that torrential rain may flood power plants, industrial sites or animal-manure lagoons, causing toxic waste to threaten drinking water.

The storm has passed, leaving areas in its path flooded and devastated.

The rain left two dozen hog farms seeping waste, killed 3.4 million chickens and turkeys, caused widespread mandates to boil drinking water and kept workers trying to prevent coal ash waste from leaking out of a landfill, according to the Washington Post.

North Carolina’s vast hog farms and waste lagoons pose one of the greatest threats.

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North Carolina farms inundated with floodwater
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North Carolina farms inundated with floodwater
Aerial view of a hog farm after the passing of Hurricane Florence in eastern North Carolina, U.S., September 17, 2018. Picture taken September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Rodrigo Gutierrez
Aerial view of farms flooded after the passing of Hurricane Florence in eastern North Carolina, U.S., September 17, 2018. Picture taken September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Rodrigo Gutierrez
Flooding covers a farm in eastern North Carolina, U.S. September 17, 2018 in a still image from aerial video. Picture taken September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Rodrigo Gutierrez
A flooded farm is seen during a flight by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter after the passing of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, over central North Carolina, U.S. September 16, 2018. Picture taken September 16, 2018. U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Jaime Rodriguez Sr./Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Water flows along open field in a local farm after Hurricane Florence swept the town of Wallace, North Carolina, U.S., September 15, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A chicken farm is seen surrounded by floodwaters after Hurricane Florence hit in Wallace, North Carolina, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. The Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City in North Carolina have re-opened with restrictions to marine traffic after Hurricane Florence swept through late last week, halting shipments of everything from fertilizer to textiles. Photographer: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A farm is seen surrounded by floodwaters after Hurricane Florence hit in Wallace, North Carolina, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. The Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City in North Carolina have re-opened with restrictions to marine traffic after Hurricane Florence swept through late last week, halting shipments of everything from fertilizer to textiles. Photographer: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A farm next to the Lumber River is seen surrounded by floodwaters in this aerial photograph taken after Hurricane Florence hit over Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Congress is prepared to provide new resources to help U.S. states recover from Hurricane Florence. Photographer: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images A flooded farm stands next to the Lumber River in this aerial photograph taken after Hurricane Florence hit Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Congress is prepared to provide new resources to help U.S. states recover from Hurricane Florence. Photographer: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A flooded farm stands next to the Lumber River in this aerial photograph taken after Hurricane Florence hit Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Congress is prepared to provide new resources to help U.S. states recover from Hurricane Florence. Photographer: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A flooded farm stands next to the Lumber River in this aerial photograph taken after Hurricane Florence hit Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Congress is prepared to provide new resources to help U.S. states recover from Hurricane Florence. Photographer: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday that it had received reports of floodwaters inundating or overtopping lagoons at 22 locations, leaving trails of floating excrement.

Four other lagoons suffered structural damage from floodwaters, the agency said. Fifty-five were at or near their capacity, the Post reports.

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To help prevent a catastrophe, farmers took extraordinary measures in advance of Florence, such as moving thousands of animals out of harm’s way as the hurricane approached.

“The storm’s impact was felt deeply across a very large region, and the approximately 5,500 swine losses reported by the NCDA&S Emergency Programs and Veterinary Services divisions were the result of all aspects of the storm, including wind damage and flooding,” the North Carolina Pork Council said in a statement on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

The council does not expect the losses to increase significantly, though floodwaters continue to rise in some locations and circumstances may change.

“Our farmers are working tirelessly now amid persistent and severe logistical challenges to continue the delivery of feed, to ensure power is operating on farms (as many use wells for water), and to reach the barns to provide proper animal husbandry,” according to the statement.

See other animals affected by the storm: 

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Pets, animals fight through Hurricane Florence
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Pets, animals fight through Hurricane Florence
A cat clings to the side of a trailer amidst flood waters before it was saved as the Northeast Cape Fear River breaks its banks in the aftermath Hurricane Florence in Burgaw, North Carolina, U.S., September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
EAST FAYETTEVILLE, NC SEP 18: Jasmine does the dog paddle as she was out in the parking lot at an apartment complex with her owner Shianna Locklear. Locklear ventured into the flooded area to check on her flooded car. -The rainy remnants of Hurricane Florence created conditions that caused local creeks and rivers to rise resulting in flooding in East Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer David Kelly carries a dog to safety during Tropical Storm Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A cat walks through a flooded street after Hurricane Florence struck Piney Green, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Members of Coast Guard Shallow-Water Response Boat Team 3 help pets stranded by floodwater caused by Hurricane Florence near Riegelwood, North Carolina, U.S. September 16, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
A wet dog waits with his owners as they await rescue from rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Carla Ramm checks on her cat Jackjack after they were loaded onto a boat during their rescue from rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A German Shepard is seen on a front porch on Macon Street in the flood waters caused by Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S. September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Miczek
A man and his dog get a close look at the beach from a golf cart during Hurricane Florence in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Roger Hedgpeth, carrying his dog Bodie, gets help getting to higher ground via the United States Coast Guard during Tropical Storm Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S. September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill
HAMPTON, GEORGIA - Marge and Steve Durham, with their dog Seti and Saba the cat, from Myrtle Beach South Carolina park their RVs and settle into the Family Campground section of the Atlanta Motor Speedway which has been made available for evacuees fleeing Hurricane Florence's path in Hampton Georgia on Thursday September 13, 2018. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A man walks along the street with his dog as people return to their houses after the passing of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Amanda Mason on Newport, N.C. carries a cat she rescued from her neighborhood off of Nine Foot Road on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16, 2018. Mason and her partner Zack McWilliams visited their damaged home and found the displaced cat and carried it out to safety. Their home was flooded by fast rising water from a tributary of the Newport River on Friday night. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
A man and his dog walk along a flooded street after the passage of tropical storm Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
An abandoned dog that had been trapped in a cage filling with rising floodwater stands on the steps of its caretaker's home after volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, freed them in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake SEARCH "DRAKE DOGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A dog is illuminated by the flashlights and headlamps of rescue workers inside a house during Tropical Storm Florence at night in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. Major poultry and�meat�companies are starting to resume operations in the Carolinas as the torrential rains and flooding unleashed by Hurricane�Florence�start to subside. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sodden cats are brought to a boat by their owner as they are rescued from rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 16: Dana Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor (L-R) and their dog, Brownie, sit on an evacuation bus as they leave their home ahead of possible flood waters after Hurricane Florence passed through the area on September 16, 2018 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Rain continues to inundate the region causing concern for large scale flooding after Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina and South Carolina area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LUMBERTON, NC - SEPTEMBER 16: From left, Pete Cihuniec and Adam Cooper, members of Colorado Task Force 1, try to catch a dog that got away from its owner as they go door to door checking on residents during Hurricane Florence on September 16, 2018 in Lumberton, North Carolina. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A soaked cat rests at the entrance to a trailer home after swimming there through floodwaters, before eventually being rescued, as the Northeast Cape Fear River breaks its banks after Hurricane Florence in Burgaw, North Carolina, U.S., September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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.

Utilities that serve more than 600,000 customers issued warnings to boil water before drinking it, according to state regulators in North Carolina.

Reggie Cheatham, director of the EPA's Office of Emergency Management, said Monday to ABC News that some sewage has been released into the floodwaters through sewer system manholes and a power failure at a water treatment plant in one case.

Cheatham told reporters some of the untreated sewage had been released into the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.

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, North Carolina.

Duke Energy reported Saturday that about 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash, the equivalent of about 180 dump trucks, spilled out of a pond at an inactive power plant.

An EPA official said the material spilled into a ditch that fed into another pond of water but did not reach the nearby Cape Fear River, ABC News reported.

Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal at power plants and contains toxic metals like mercury and arsenic. It can be toxic if it spreads to nearby bodies of water.

Environmental assessments are still underway at many of these potential hazardous sites. Environmental activist groups continue to sound the alarm on potential contamination.

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