Pork producers across the country celebrated victory following decisions made by a federal court and the state of Iowa that affected concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and federal Clean Water Act (CWA) permits.

Since the CWA was passed in 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state environmental agencies have been granting wastewater discharge permits to point sources of water pollution, including CAFOs.

On March 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans ruled that the EPA cannot require livestock operations to obtain CWA permits unless they are discharging manure into a waterway of the United States. The court found that the EPA exceeded its statutory authority in requiring CAGOS that propose or might discharge to apply for CWA permits.

The case stems back to 2008, when a regulation set a zero-discharge standard and included a duty to apply for a CWA permit for all CAFOs that discharge or “propose” to discharge. The rule covered production areas and crop land on which manure is applied and imposed fines of up to $37,500 a day not only for illegal discharges but for the failure of a CAFOS that had a discharge to apply for a CWA permit.  

The 5th Circuit Court ruled in favor of CAFOs, agreeing that there must be an actual discharged to trigger the CWA requirements and EPA authority.

In Iowa, state officials are now issuing CWA permits to medium-sized CAFOs, defined as pork operations with more than 750 swine but less than 2,500 swine.  Previously permits were only issued to large-sized CAFOs.

The permit criteria for medium-sized CAFOs include

  • All runoff of manure and process wastewater from a 5-inch rainfall event must be stored and land applied.
  • Required storage volume can be provided in any system parts that can hold wastewater (settling basins, holding basins, bermed treatment areas, etc.)
  • Solids settling must meet Iowa law.
  • A professional engineer must determine the appropriate materials and methods for constructing the storage, but compaction and permeability testing are not required.
  • Vegetated treatment systems are allowed.
  • A Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) is required for manure solids.
  • Feedlot effluent must be land applied such that a discharge to a water source does not occur.
  • Process wastewater includes runoff from open silage, bulk feed or manure storage, but does not include runoff from intact bales for bedding or feed, or overflow from controlled overflow waterers.
  • An operation and maintenance (O&M) manual must be included in the permit application.
  • Required recordkeeping includes:

1. Daily rainfall amounts
2. Weekly stored effluent volume
3. Inspection of storage berms and outlets, distribution pipes and pumps, soil conditions and any discharges each time effluent is applied
4. Record of any discharge to waters of the U.S. through man-made devices
5. Other site-specific requirements as identified in the permit

Because medium CAFO permits are new to IOWA, informational meetings to help livestock producers understand permit requirements, design criteria, maintenance, recordkeeping and nutrient management.  Meetings will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Registration is $30 for the first person and $15 for each additional person from the same operation. Preregistration is required. 

Below is the information for these first three meetings, including a map to each location:

March 29: Spencer - Community School Administration Building, 23 East 7th Street.
To preregister, contact the Clay County Extension office, phone 712-262-2264

March 30: Sioux Center - Corporate Center, 950 North Main Avenue
To preregister, contact the Sioux County Extension office, phone 712-737-4230

March 31: Arcadia - American Legion Hall, 210 West Head Street
To preregister, contact the Carroll County Extension office, phone 712-792-2364

Source: Iowa State University Extension, NPPC