Today CPR releases Manure in the Bay: A Report on Industrial Animal Agriculture in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The paper provides a snapshot of the federal Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) permit program under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and how these states are implementing this program. The report provides recommendations for strengthening these programs to curb pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and provides a brief glimpse at the broader animal agricultural and manure management programs work in these states. The report was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and me.
Congress specifically identified CAFOs as sources of pollution to be regulated four decades ago, but regulations at the federal and state levels have only begun to be developed and seriously implemented. In the meantime, the dramatic rise in the number of animals in fewer and fewer facilities has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of manure and wastewater generated by these industrial operations. Animal manure and process wastewater contain nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium; pathogens; antibiotics; and other pollutants such as cleaning fluids, heavy metals, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides. When these substances reach local waterways without being treated, myriad human health and ecosystem impacts are inevitable. Stronger regulations are badly needed.
The delays in regulating CAFOs have had devastating consequences for water quality, but progress is finally in the works. In October, EPA proposed and opened for public comment a rule to collect information from large animal feeding operations to help determine which operations constitute CAFOs. EPA is slated to propose another rule this year aimed at CAFOs and animal feeding operations in the Chesapeake Bay (EPA said it was planning to release the rule in May, and it’s under a court deadline to do so this month, but regular readers know that means far less than it ought to). This latter rule is expected to expand CAFO permit coverage to operations that are not currently subject to federal requirements. Also pending on the horizon is a revised CAFO rule, which will clarify which operations must apply for pollution discharge permits.
The report recommends, among other things, two ways environmental authorities could use tools in the CWA that they have generally not used thus far to protect our waters:
The Maryland Department of Environment administers both the federal CAFO permit as well as a state permit for Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs). As of November 7, 2011, MDE had received 597 Notices of Intent for CAFO and MAFO permit coverage. Notably, prior to the start of the CAFO program, Maryland had merely 10 facilities registered and permitted as CAFOs (see MDE’s 2010 Enforcement and Compliance Report, page 88). To date, however, MDE has a permit backlog because of delays in both writing components of the permit and registering the permit itself. Nevertheless, the CPR report recommends:
In Pennsylvania, animal agriculture operations fall into three broad categories: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs), and operations that do not meet the definition or the threshold sizes for CAFOs or CAOs. The state has around 360 CAFOs, the around 1,200 CAOs, and roughly 30,000 other animal agricultural operations. Roughly half the manure generated in Pennsylvania comes from CAFOs and CAOs, and the remaining half comes from the smaller, lower density animal agriculture operations, the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations says.
To protect more waterways in Pennsylvania from nutrient pollution, the report recommends that the Pennsylvania Department of Environment should:
The report is available here.
The Center for Progressive Reform would like to thank the Keith Campbell Foundation for its generous support of this project.