The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has once again identified CAFO enforcement as a top national priority.  The agency’s National Enforcement Initiatives for Fiscal Years 2010-2012 are now available.

Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Ground Waters

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are agricultural operations where animals live in a confined environment. CAFOs can contain large numbers of animals, feed, manure, dead animals and production operations on a small land area.  The animals generate a large amount of manure, which typically is held in lagoons or spread on nearby fields.  If not properly controlled, manure can overflow from lagoons or run off from the fields into nearby surface waters or seep into ground water, carrying disease-causing pathogens, nutrients, or other contaminants into the water.  This contaminates both surface waters and ground waters that may be used as drinking water sources and harms fish and other aquatic species in surface waters.  Several studies have found high concentrations of CAFOs in areas with low income and non-white populations. This is typical in many rural areas of the country where livestock facilities are located.  Children in these populations may be particularly susceptible to potential adverse health effects through exposure to contaminated surface waters or drinking water from contaminated ground water sources.  The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of these pollutants into surface waters, and EPA’s regulations require larger CAFOs to have permits (which impose control requirements) if the waste produced by animals on the farm will run off into surface waters.  However, many CAFOs are not complying with these requirements.  Therefore, EPA will continue and strengthen its enforcement focus on these facilities.  For FY2011-13, OECA will focus primarily on existing large and medium CAFOs identified as discharging without a permit.

Hopefully they’ll get busy soon – we need all the help we can get!

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