After six years of pressure from environmental groups alleging that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has failed to properly enforce the Clean Water Act, an agreement has been reached between DNR and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to Des Moines legal counsel Eldon McAfee.

Approvedin mid-September, the EPA-DNR Work Plan essentially calls for the Iowa DNR over the next five years to conduct inspections of all large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to determine if they are discharging to waters of the United States, says McAfee, who works for the law firm Beving, Swanson & Forrest, P.C.  If those operations are found to be discharging to waters of the United States, then they will be required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

“However, Iowa law prohibits confinement feeding operations from discharging any manure anywhere, let alone to waters of the United States,” he asserts.

Large CAFOs are defined as 2,500 swine weighing 55 lb. or more or 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 lb.

 

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For medium-sized CAFOs, the standard is 300-999 animal units if those operations discharge pollutants to a water of the United States via a man-made conveyance. For swine, one animal unit is defined as the number of swine weighing more than 55 lb. multiplied by 0.4 or the number of swine weighing less than 55 lb. multiplied by 0.03.

Iowa DNR will conduct what the work plan calls desk top assessments of all operations. For the large CAFOs, the desk top assessment will be conducted, followed by on-farm inspections to determine if they are discharging, McAfee points out.  For medium-sized operations that do not use uncovered manure storage or that are not within a ¼ mile of a water body, an on-site assessment will only be required if the desktop assessment warrants it.   Once these medium-sized operations, such as a hog operation with deep pit manure storage, have had a desk top assessment, and the DNR has determined it is satisfied from that assessment that the operation is not discharging, that will be the end of the assessment. “I think this procedure will be critical for those operations in that they may not have to have an on-site inspection,” he says.

McAfee clarifies that the on-farm inspection process has already started. “When the DNR does a manure management inspection, they are supposed to go ahead and look for discharges so they wouldn’t have to go back to just look for discharges.”

Under the EPA-DNR Work Plan, DNR will also revise rules on manure application setbacks for operations with NPDES permits to coincide with federal law.  The work plan also calls for tougher penalties for violations to be enforced.

For more detailed information on the work plan, visit the Iowa DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov.

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