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Controversy stemming from PED virus

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RALEIGH, N.C. - State officials and environmental groups are at odds about the state's action in the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, or PED, virus outbreak affecting pig farms in North Carolina.

Brian Long with the NC Department of Agriculture says the state has been monitoring the outbreak since it started. The problem is, state law limits what they can do in this situation.

"This disease, PED virus, is not on the reportable disease list," Long said. "So there is no legal requirement that these farms notify us when they get infected."

State officials and environmental groups agree the PED virus doesn't pose a direct human health impact. However, environmental groups say the way pig farms dispose of the dead pigs could pose a health impact.

By law, if the farm buries the dead pigs, the burial site has to be at least 300 feet away from a waterway and at least 3 feet deep. But some environmental groups say they aren't too sure that law is being followed or enforced.

"I think the people of North Carolina, particularly in Eastern Carolina where these facilities with the PED virus are showing up, have a right to know," said Larry Baldwin, with the Waterkeeper Alliance.

The Waterkeeper Alliance asked the Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler to ask Governor McCrory to declare a state of emergency. In a letter to the Waterkeeper Alliance dated March 7, 2014, Commissioner Troxler said a state of emergency wasn't warranted, but did direct a unannounced flyover of facilities.

A major reason for the flyover instead of ground inspections was lack of resources in the department, something Baldwin says is used as an excuse way too often.

"What's it going to take? What kind of situation are we going to need to get into before the resources are not the issue. The safety of the public is the issue," Baldwin said.

To read the list of viruses covered by the reportable disease list, you can visit the NC Department of Agriculture's website.

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