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Livestock

Dept. of Environmental Quality reviews, explains CAFO permit requirements

Written by Christy Hemken

Worland – In 1969 a spark from a bridge ignited the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, the 10th such event but the first to inspire national regulation.
In 1972 the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments were enacted, otherwise known as the Clean Water Act.
“At the time it didn’t identify agriculture at all as a pollutant source, but in 1974 it was revised and the first confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) permits were issued,” said John Deutscher of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at the 2010 WESTI Ag Days in Worland held early February.
In 1976 effluent limits were attached, but from the late 1970s to the early 1990s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focused on industry. In December 2000 the CWA accepted proposed revisions, which Deutscher said were embraced by environmentalists but opposed by industry.
In 2003 the final revised regulations occurred, which required all CAFOs over 1,000 animals to acquire a permit.
“They thought we’d go from 4,000 to 7,000 permits, but ended up with 15,500 permits,” said Deutscher. “The new regulations were challenged by both sides and in 2005 the Waterkeeper Alliance contested them, so it went back to federal court with the requirement that the EPA clarify the final rule.”
In 2007 the revisions came back, and the EPA adopted them and modified the regulations. 2008 saw a final rule, which went into effect Oct. 31, 2008.
“Any upcoming permits are required to have those implementations and requirements, and any facility that has a history of discharge or the potential to discharge must get a permit,” said Deutscher, noting that excludes ag storm water. “Operations must also have a nutrient management plan that is put out for public notice before they receive their permit.”
The DEQ adopted the EPA’s final rule, which gives Wyoming primacy over its CAFO operations. “Right now the EPA is making a grab to get some programs back, and Florida is about to lose primacy,” said Deutscher. “Whether DEQ has the program for long is up in the air.”
Deutscher said that once again there is litigation, as both sides are contesting the 2008 final rule. As for the future, he says, “Who knows.”
However, for the moment Wyoming’s CAFOs need to maintain their permits through a division known as the Wyoming Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WYPDES), which authorizes discharges of pollutants that may impact waters of Wyoming.
The permit requires CAFO operators to maintain the ability to contain any water that falls on their facility up to a 25-year, 24-hour event.
“For Worland, that’s anywhere from 1.8 to 2.4 inches of water in a 24-hour period,” said Deutscher. “Whether it comes in three or 24 hours, that’s your event and you’re required to contain all of that precipitation.”
Although most CAFOs in Wyoming are beef, there is one swine and one poultry operation in the state that qualify, and Wyoming is also the only state with CAFO regulations for bison.
“Two stipulations must both happen before a permit is required,” explained Deutscher. “Animals must be on a facility for 45 days out of the year, and the area where they’re contained must not be able to sustain any vegetation.”
For example, if there are 1,000 head spread over 5,000 acres a permit isn’t required.
“They have to be confined to where there is no regrowth,” said Deutscher, noting that there is no specific acreage for the permit. “It depends on vegetation, water, rainfall and soil type.”
CAFO discharge in-cludes manure, open feedlot effluent, settled open lot effluent, settable solids and process wastewater.
A permit includes the specific 25-year, 24-hour event that must be contained, standard conditions, discharge from the site. It also includes the nutrient management plan and record-keeping requirements, which include daily and weekly inspections of the site.
“Effluent limits are applied to the land application area and the production area, and they’re managed by engineering, design, daily operation and maintenance and the management plan,” said Deutscher.
He said a new aspect of the permits is the requirement to include some form of engineered diagram to determine if a facility will contain the 25-year event. “We have to make sure it can handle the event and the nutrients coming into it,” he noted.
Also, once during the five-year term of the permit operators are required to do a manure spreader calibration. To do that, they must weigh a load of manure, pick a rate of speed for application and see how many acres that covers. A log book is required on site.
Deutscher said the DEQ is still in the process of a cross check with EPA regulations and how they tie together. “We have to be at least as stringent as their regulations,” he noted.
Because the regulations are in court again Deutscher said the current regulations are required but it could change. “That depends on what courts say. If they kick the whole thing out I don’t know where we go.”
Right now threshold numbers for a large CAFO, which require permits, are 1,000 cattle. Medium CAFOs can range from 300 to 999 head.
“The EPA is looking at them now, and I expect in the next 10 years we will regulate those as well,” said Deutscher of the smaller feeders. “It’s nothing we want to do, but I think EPA will push for that. If they say we have to do it, we have to do it, unless we give up primacy.”
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..