REDUCING WATER POLLUTION FROM ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATIONS
Ronald L. Boman
USU Extension Dairy Specialist
On February 19, 1998, at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, President Clinton and Vice-President Gore announced the administration's "Clean Water Action Plan." This action plan, initiated on the 25th anniversary of the passage of the "Clean Water Act," expresses the Federal Government's intent to finish the job of cleaning up America's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters to protect the environment and health of all Americans.
The quality of the waters of the U.S. has improved markedly because of industrial pollution controls and more sewage treatment facilities. Agriculture is now seen as a major contributor to the pollution of U.S. waters. A survey of 22 states indicates that non-irrigated crop production leads the list of agricultural activities, affecting 36% of impaired river miles, followed by irrigated crop production, affecting 22% of impaired river miles. Animal operations, including feedlots and animal holding areas, affect 20% of impaired river miles in these 22 states.
Often Confined Animal Feeding Operations are very visible (and detectable due to odor). EPA and USDA will be working together, along with the Utah Departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture and Utah Cooperative Extension, to educate dairy producers about the rules and regulations concerning dairy waste management.
Basically, you cannot discharge or allow manure contaminated water to get into any of the waters of the U.S. This includes irrigation ditches that leave your property. Those dairy farms located near rivers and lakes are the most apt to be out of compliance.
Large dairies over 1000 animal units (one animal unit equals 1000 lbs. live weight) will be targeted first followed by dairies that have more than 300 animal units. However, even small dairies that pollute or have the potential to pollute will have to come into compliance soon.
The Utah Dairymen's Association and USU Extension recently sponsored a waste management tour of dairies in Southeastern Idaho. Idaho dairies have had to come into compliance with the "Clean Water Act" or shut down their operations. On this tour we saw a wide range of anti-pollution measures from rather simple, but effective, construction and management systems to larger more expensive units. All of those farms that we visited can contain the waste and run-off (except in the case of a 25-year, 24-hour storm event). Since Idaho was under a court order to come into compliance, there was cost share money for construction of most of these waste containment/diversion facilities.
Utah dairy producers need to look at their own operations and begin to make simple, but necessary, waste management and handling adjustments. We need to do this voluntarily before we are saddled with some hefty fines and/or forced out of business.
If you have questions about your waste man-agement situation, contact your Utah Extension Agent/Specialist, someone from your local NRCS or your representative from the Utah Dairymen's Association. We are not regulatory agencies and we want to be of help to you.