Stephen E. Poe
USU Extension Agricultural Engineer

    The following item is a small part of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new compliance assurance implementation plan with technical legal terminology included. If you understand it and all of its implications, then please call and explain it to me. It is only in the draft stage, but the upshot is that animal operations and the management of manure will soon undergo radical change. Future articles will try to explain what these changes mean to the dairy industry.


    This Plan addresses compliance/enforcement efforts to ensure compliance by point sources called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). It is the first product and milestone in EPA's forthcoming "Strategy for Addressing Environmental and Public Health Impacts from Animal Feeding Operations."

Regulated Industry

    According to a 1995 General Accounting Office report (based on the 1992 Census of Agriculture data), there are 450,000 farms with confined (not pasture) feedlots out of 640,000 farms with livestock. These feedlots primarily include beef, hog, chicken, dairy, and turkey facilities. Approximately 6,600 confined livestock facilities have more than 1,000 animal units and would generally meet the NPDES definition of CAFO. ("Animal Units" are defined in Appendix b to 40 CFR Part 122.) These operations represent approximately 35% of the total livestock population and are generally concentrated on small land areas. An estimated 32,000 facilities have between 301-1,000 animal units; some of these facilities may be CAFOs if they meet the requirements discussed below (see Regulatory Requirements). Currently, less than 25% of CAFOs have NPDES permits listed in EPA's permit compliance system (PCS). In addition, a number of CAFOs are also permitted under "non-NPDES" State authority. Animal feeding operations are present in every State and in most rural counties. In every major livestock market category the trend over the last ten years has been towards an increase in the number and market share of larger confined AFOs and a decrease in the number of smaller feedlots. Currently the Agency has authorized 43 States to issue NPDES permits. In the "non-authorized" States, Territories, and Tribal lands, EPA issues the NPDES permits.

Regulatory Requirements

    The 1972 Amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (also known as the Clean Water Act), prohibit the discharge of pollutants from a point source into waters of the United States except in compliance with conditions of an NPDES permit. Section 502 of the Act expressly includes "concentrated animal feeding operation" within the definition of a point source. Two related sets of regulations address feedlot discharges. They are:

    1.   NPDES program regulations (see 40 CFR section 122.23 and Part 122 Appendix b). These regulations define "animal feeding operations" or AFOs and specify which operations are "concentrated" animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. A feedlot is an AFO if it stables or confines and feeds or maintains animals for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and does not sustain crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post harvest residues during the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility. The factors that determine whether an AFO is a CAFO vary depending on the number of animals confined in the feedlot. In general, the largest AFOs (>1,000 animal units) are defined as a CAFO based on animal units alone. An AFO in the middle tier (301-1,000 animal units) may be a CAFO if: (a) it directly discharges pollutants into water that originates outside of and passes over, across, or through the facility or otherwise comes into direct contact with the confined animals, or (b) pollutants are discharged through a man-made conveyance. An AFO with less than 301 animal units is not a CAFO unless the permitting authority designates is as a CAFO on a case-by-case basis based on a determination that the AFO is a significant contributor of pollution to waters of the United States. The regulations also provide that no AFO is a CAFO under these definitions if it discharges only in the event of a 25-year, 24-hour storm event.

    2.   Feedlot Effluent Limitation Guidelines (see 40 CFR part 412). National Effluent Limitation Guidelines are technology-based effluent limitations that establish a minimum standard of performance for certain categories and classes of point sources. These standards are imposed on facilities through NPDES permits. The effluent limitation guideline for feedlots appears at 40 CFR part 412. These guidelines establish a standard of "zero discharge" to the waters of the U.S. for feedlots to which the guidelines apply. In addition, the Feedlot Guidelines allow for the discharge of an overflow from a facility that is properly constructed and maintained to contain all the process wastewater plus the rainfall from a 25-year, 24-hour storm event. For facilities not covered by the Feedlot Effluent Guidelines, requirements are developed on a case-by-case basis using the permit writer's Best Professional Judgement (B.J.) (see 40 CFR  125.3(c)). After determining the appropriate technology based standard, the permit writer determines whether the resulting discharge has a reasonable potential to cause or contribute to an exceedence of State water quality standards. In the event that there is a reasonable potential, the permit writer develops additional water quality-based effluent limitations for incorporation in the NPDES permit as necessary to assure compliance with water quality standards. ©