As of Friday, hog facilities in North Carolina with 2,500 animals weighing more than 55 pounds fall under the umbrella of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program. They will still be required to comply with state regulations. Smaller facilities with “no discharge to state waters” will continue to be permitted under the state non-discharge program.

The state environmental agency finalized the NPDES permits after a long public comment period, public hearings and more than 100 oral and written comments. They will be issued first to facilities that experienced serious environmental-compliance problems such as waste discharges to surface waters.

About two-thirds of the new regulations deal with lagoon-spray-field waste-handling systems used by most pork operations in North Carolina:

  • Rainfall must be monitored and recorded.
  • Either “rain breaker” devices must be installed to stop irrigation automatically during precipitation or an operator must be present constantly during land application.
  • During manure application, the land must be inspected at least every 2 hours, even if “rain breakers” are used. (Every 4 hours under current state permits.)
  • If a facility has had a violation for irrigation over-application– and/or incomplete or incorrect irrigation record keeping– flow meters with flow totalizers may be required.
  • In the event of an overflow or discharge from the manure collection, treatment, storage or application system(s), the permittee must have the overflow or discharge sampled and analyzed.
  • At least once a year, manure-application equipment must be tested and calibrated.
  • Land-application sites must be managed and used properly, with crops rotated and removed.
  • Annual sludge accumulation surveys must be made for a lagoon and excessive sludge removed.

The North Carolina Pork Council will work with the state Division of Water Quality on an educational program for producers covered under the new NPDES permits.

The permits also will apply to facilities with more than 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cattle, 30,000 layers or broilers in an operation with a liquid-manure system.