Care For A Drink Of Hog Water?

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Don Lloyd dipped his bottle into a tank of water that had been flushed out of three nearby pens filled with thousands of hogs just six hours earlier.

"There, that's pig water," he proclaimed as he held up the bottle and tipped it back for a thirst-quenching chug.

Lloyd's recent demonstration wasn't designed to gross people out, but to show his confidence in a treatment system that he developed to purify the putrid, waste-filled water dumped into so-called hog lagoons across North Carolina.

North Carolina has 10 million hogs at any given time--more than any other state except Iowa--and the hog lagoons constructed to hold hog waste have aroused the ire of environmentalists and neighbors who say the foul smell hurts property values.

If approved, a system like Lloyd's could represent a major development in North Carolina's $1.5 billion hog industry, the state's No. 1 farm commodity in 2003.

"The data that we have seen so far on this system is encouraging," said Mike Williams, a North Carolina State University professor overseeing an evaluation of several alternatives to traditional hog waste lagoons.

Lloyd's pilot system, developed at Little Creek Hog Farms here, cleans out three hog houses four times a day, churning out potable water within six hours. The water is then recycled to water the hogs. Solid waste strained from the water is mixed with high-carbon cotton plant remnants to make compost.