EPA Proposes Continued Focus on CAFO Compliance and Enforcement
January 31st, 2013
Every three years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asks for public comment on its National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives for addressing important environmental problems. EPA selects the initiatives based on (1) the severity of the pollution problem; (2) a determination that noncompliance with an environmental law enforced by EPA is a significant issue; and (3) a determination that federal enforcement can make a difference.
On January 28, EPA issued a notice in the Federal Register asking for public comment on extending the six current national initiatives, selected for the FY2011-2013 time period, as priorities for the FY2014-2016 time period. Public comments are due by February 27, 2012.
Among the current FY2011-2013 initiatives is the prevention of surface and ground water contamination by animal waste discharges from large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). EPA has posted a summary of inspection and enforcement actions taken to date during the current FY2011-2013 period.
There is evidence that CAFO waste discharges remain a significant water pollution problem. Here are two recent examples:
- Currently the EPA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are negotiating a draft work plan for stepped up CAFO inspection that was prepared by EPA after its investigation of the DNR’s oversight of large CAFOs. The investigation was in response to a petition submitted in 2007 by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project that asked EPA to reassert its authority to regulate CAFOs in Iowa. An EPA Region 7 investigation found that DNR’s oversight of large CAFOs is deficient. The DNR response to the EPA report included a number of actions that the DNR proposes to take to step up its oversight of CAFOs. These actions include requesting state funds for additional CAFO inspectors and modifications to the Iowa guidance and regulations regarding CAFOs.
- A 2012 study by EPA of sources of nitrate pollution in residential water wells in Washington State’s Yakima Valley flagged dairy CAFOs as a major source of the pollution. About 25,000 people in the Valley depend on residential wells for their drinking water.