Jeff Oden is an agricultural specialist with Tetra Tech EM, a consulting firm that offers environmental services to public and private sectors. Oden provides environmental assistance to agricultural clients on regulations, design and operations.
Q What are some challenges that pork producers face in complying with new Environmental Protection Agency regulations?
A The major issue facing most producers is developing " permit nutrient plans" required by the proposed new regulations. Producers will have to prepare PNPs as part of their permit applications. These must include provisions for soil, water, groundwater and nutrient sampling. The rule also may require some producers to change their current procedures, and may require different procedures for new operations. For example, for both existing and new pork operations the proposed effluent guidelines require that there be no discharges from production areas. EPA also proposes that confined-animal-feeding operations (CAFOs) monitor the groundwater under production areas to ensure that there are no discharges. As proposed, animal mortalities cannot be disposed of in any liquid-manure or storm-water storage or treatment system. Finally, manure will need to be sampled at least annually for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Q Who will the new rules affect?
A As proposed, they will apply to any operation that: - Has 1,000 animal units or more; or- Has 301 to 1,000 animal units, and discharges manure through a man-made conveyance or directly into waters of the United States; or - Is designated as a CAFO by the permitting authority.
This is called a three-tiered system. It has not yet been formally adopd. EPA received numerous comments concerning this system during the public-comment period.
Under the proposed rule, a producer would have an opportunity to demonstrate that his operation is not a CAFO by providing the permitting authority with information demonstrating that there is " no potential to discharge." Q When will these regulations become law?A The regulations will be finalized in December 2002. They will be published in the Federal Register in January 2003. After that, states with EPA-authorized National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System programs will have to revise their standards to match the federal regulations no later than January 2004.
Some operations will be newly defined as CAFOs. For those, there will be a phase-in process. They will not be required to obtain permits until January 2006.
Q What is the best way for producers to prepare for the new regulations?
A They should start by becoming familiar with the regulations, and compiling the information needed to prepare their PNPs. Producers may want to consult with professionals, such as university Extension personnel, Certified Crop Advisors, Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel, or professional environmental consultants as they begin the PNP process.
There may be cost-share monies available to help producers comply with these regulations, but funds will probably be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis, and could be in short supply.
Also, the time and availability of advisers will likely be limited, especially in the early months of the permitting period, so producers should start preparing PNPs as early as possible.
Q What happens if producers do not comply?
A Regulators will probably treat producers that fail to comply in the same manner as other businesses that fail to comply with environmental regulations. Typically, regulators first issue warnings, combined with a plan and schedule for meeting compliance. If deadlines set in this "corrective action plan" are not met, regulators then typically will assess fines – in this case, as high as $25,000 per day per offense. In extreme cases of continued noncompliance, regulators may shut down an operation.
Q How will the new laws be enforced?
A In most cases, state environmental agencies in cooperation with EPA will enforce the new regulations, as state environmental agencies revise their own regulations to conform. In any states that do not revise their regulations to conform with the new regulations, EPA will retain primary enforcement authority.
Q What is the overall purpose of these new rules?
A Nonpoint-source pollution has been identified as a large contributor to nitrates and nitrate compounds in the nation's waters. Runoff from CAFOs has been identified as one contributor. These regulations are intended to ensure that environmental standards in all states meet non-point-source control requirements established in the federal Clean Water Act. They also set forth a universal standard, so that states can compare an standardize.