EPA Finalizes Revised CAFO Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized revisions to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

EPA will now require a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) for manure to be submitted as part of a CAFO’s Clean Water Act permit application. Previous rules required a CAFO operator to use a NMP for controlling manure, but the revised regulation builds on that by requiring the NMP to be submitted with the permit application. The plan will be reviewed by the permitting authority and conditions based on it will be incorporated as enforceable terms of the permit. After reviewing the NMP, the permitting authorities are required to provide the public with an opportunity to review the NMP before it is finalized. The revised regulations also require that an owner or operator of a CAFO that actually discharges to streams, lakes and other waters must apply for a permit under the Clean Water Act. If a producer designs, constructs, operates and maintains their facility such that a discharge will occur, a permit is needed. These CAFOs will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. EPA is also providing an opportunity for CAFO operators who do not discharge or propose to discharge to show their commitment to pollution prevention by obtaining certificates as zero dischargers.

The final rule includes technical clarification about water quality-based effluent limitations and use of best management practices to meet zero discharge requirements. EPA will work closely with states during implementation of the revised rules. The rule deadline for newly defined facilities to apply for permits is February 27, 2009, according to a recent EPA news release.

Here’s a bit of background, the EPA issued revised Clean Water Act permitting requirements and effluent limitations for CAFOs in February 2003. The requirements expanded the number of CAFOs required to seek National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and added requirements for land application of manure. In response to a court case, Waterkeeper Alliance et al. vs. EPA, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in 2005 ordering the EPA to address certain aspects of its Clean Water Act regulations pertaining to CAFOs. The EPA published proposed rules in June 2006, then again in March 2008, describing how it planned to address the court’s decisions. In October 2008, the EPA signed the final revised rules. The regulations will become effective 14 days after being published in the Federal Register.

The EPA estimates the new regulations will prevent 56 million lb. of phosphorus, 110 million lb. of nitrogen, and 2 billion lb. of sediment from entering streams, lakes and other U.S. waters annually.

Learn more about the revised CAFO rules online atcfpub.epa.gov/npdes/afo/cafofinalrule.cfm.