‘Wastelands’ tells story of how small community took on large farm pollution

ABC News’ Phil Lipof spoke with author Corban Addison about his new book “Wastelands” on how North Carolina residents took on a large farm corporation over environmental destruction.
5:39 | 07/06/22

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Transcript for ‘Wastelands’ tells story of how small community took on large farm pollution
IN BACK TO A SHUN BASKET INTO THE HOSPITAL. HE WASN'T RUSHED BY AMBULANCE TO A HOSPITAL FOR FURTHER TREATMENT. A GROUP OF IMPASSIONED RESIDENTS BATTLED THE POLLUTING PRACTICES OF FARMING AFTER FACING PROPERTY DAMAGE, HEALTH ISSUES, AND MORE FOR DECADES FROM NEARBY MEATPACKING FARMS. THEY FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL COMPANIES AND SURPRISINGLY THEY WON. AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING AUTHOR TAKES US INTO THIS LEGAL CHATTER IN HIS LATEST ALL THEY'RE -- THE TRUE STORY OF FARM COUNTRY ON TRIAL. RAISING QUESTIONS OF THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN FARMING PRACTICES AND WHAT OTHERS CAN DO TO FIGHT AGAINST SUPPOSEDLY INVINCIBLE CORPORATIONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING TIME AND BEING WITH US, I APPRECIATE IT. >> THANK YOU. >> THIS COMMITTEE WAS EXPOSED TO HOG WASTE FROM THE MEATPACKING FARM, CAN YOU DESCRIBE EXACTLY HOW IT ALL STARTED AND WITH THE HEALTH EFFECTS WERE? >> SURE, BACK IN THE 1960S THIS WAS THE E OLD TOBACCO PLANTS IN NORTH CAROLINA. AS TOBACCO HIT A SLIDE, THE HOG INDUSTRY CAME IN AND OFFERED CONTRACTS TO A LOT OF FARMERS WHO WERE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO DO WITH THEIR LAND AND SO THEY INSTALLED THESE CONCENTRATED ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATIONS, GIANT BARNES WITH THOUSANDS OF HOGS INSIDE OF THEM. THEY DISPOSED OF THESE MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF WASTE PRODUCED BY THE HOGS BY CARVING OUT BASICALLY CESSPOOLS IN THE EARTH AND SPRAYING THEM OUT ON THE FIELDS. THE CHALLENGE WAS, THEY NEVER ASKED THE NEIGHBORS WHAT WAS IT LIKE NEXT TO THESE GIGANTIC HOG OPERATIONS. THOSE NEIGHBORS UNFORTUNATELY SUFFERED FROM THE SPRAY WHICH WOULD BASICALLY BLOW ON TO THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE A CLOUD. IT WOULD DRIVE THEM INDOORS ENTERING THEIR HOMES INTO, IN WOMAN'S WORD, A PRISON. >> THAT SOUNDS HORRIBLE FOR SO MANY REASONS, ON SO MANY LEVELS. THOSE RESIDENCE YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT GOT TOGETHER WITH A LEGAL TEAM, THEY WERE ABLE TO WAGE THIS FIGHT AND GET JUSTICE, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? >> IT TOOK A GENERATION TO BE HONEST. FOR A LONG TIME THERE WERE NO LAWYERS WHO ARE WILLING TO TAKE ON THE HOG INDUSTRY, WHICH BASICALLY OWNS THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA. IT TOOK A COURAGEOUS AND PIONEERING WOMEN BY THE NAME OF WALLACE FROM THE SMALL TOWN OF SALISBURY, SHE HAD TAKEN ON CORPORATE GREED IN THE PAST TO STAND UP TO SMITHFIELD FOODS AND BE WILLING TO REPRESENT THESE PEOPLE, MOST OF WHOM ARE BLACK PEOPLE OF MODEST MEANS. SHE BOUGHT TWO EARLY ON IN 2013. IT TOOK SEVEN YEARS OF LITIGATION AND FIVE FEDERAL CHILES BEFORE ULTIMATELY THERE WAS A SETTLEMENT AND THE HOG INDUSTRY CHANGED. >> BESIDES BEING AN AUTHOR, YOU ARE ALSO A LAWYER WHICH I FIND INTERESTING IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS PARTICULAR STORY. DID YOUR DAY JOB SORT OF BRING YOU TO THIS STORY, DID IT BRING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE WHILE YOU WERE WRITING THIS BOOK? >> NO QUESTION, LOOK I'VE ALWAYS SEEN THE LAW AS A GREAT WAY OF HELPING ME UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AND THE WAY THAT BUSINESS WORKS. THE WAY THAT JUSTICE WORKS. I DEFINITELY WAS BENEFITED BY THAT AND TELLING THE STORY. I WROTE LIKE A LEGAL THRILLER THAT IS 100% TRUE. I AM REALLY GRATEFUL THAT I WAS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THE NUANCES OF THE LAW. I DIGESTED THEM AND PUT THEM ON PAGE IN A WAY THAT DOESN'T MAKE YOUR EYES GLAZE OVER, IT ACTUALLY, I THINK THE LAW IS REALLY INTERESTING BUT I DON'T GET INTO TOO MUCH OF THE NITTY-GRITTY. I TELL THE FUN PART. >> I FIND IT FASCINATING. THIS IS YOUR FIRST WORK OF NON FICTION BUT YOU WRITE ABOUT SOCIAL ISSUES. I'M WONDERING, WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO CHANGE ABOUT THE LARGE SCALE FARMING INDUSTRY TO MAKE IT ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE? >> TO BE HONEST, THE ONE THING THAT THE NEIGHBORS ASKED FOR AND HAVE BEEN ASKING FOR SINCE THE 1990S IS JUST FOR THE INDUSTRY TO CIVILIZE IT'S WASTE DISPOSAL. IN THE UNITED STATES AND IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD. WE ACTUALLY TREAT OUR WASTE, WE RECOGNIZE THAT AS BIOLOGICAL CREATURES, WE HAVE WASTE, WE NEED TO TREAT IT. WE DON'T USE CESSPOOLS AND OPEN SEWERS LIKE HUMAN BEINGS HAVE AND STILL DO IN SOME PARTS OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD. UNFORTUNATELY, THE DOG INDUSTRY HAS BEEN USING THESE MEDIEVAL CESSPOOLS AND SPRAY FIELDS FOR 30 YEARS. THEY SIMPLY HAVE BEEN UNWILLING TO SPEND THE MONEY TO CLEAN UP THE PRACTICE. THERE IS TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE, THAT TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN AVAILABLE FOR A DECADE OR MORE. IT WOULD COST THEM A LITTLE BIT MORE IN ORDER TO INSTALL IT. THEY HAVE BEEN UNWILLING TO SPEND MONEY, ULTIMATELY, PROFIT IS WHAT DRIVES DECISIONS IN THE BOARDROOM. THAT ONE CHANGE WOULD SOLVE THE PROBLEM FOR THE NEIGHBORS, AND ALSO SOLVE THE PROBLEM FOR THE BROADER ENVIRONMENT. >> IS NOT JUST THIS INJURY, YOU KNOW AS WELL WE SEE THIS IN OTHER INDUSTRIES AS WELL. GREAT TO TALK TO YOU,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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