This strategy describes the methods used to control the water quality impacts of manure from Pennsylvania farms and the final strategy for the state to comply with the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.
Concentrated animal feeding operations are growing in size and number in Pennsylvania. This strategy integrates tools already in place to control excess nutrient runoff, like the newly implemented Nutrient Management Act and the experience of the last 10 years in the Chesapeake Bay Program, with the new permitting requirements.
The intent of this strategy is to ensure that all concentrated animal feeding operations are constructed and managed in an environmentally sound manner, while ensuring agricultural producers the opportunity to pursue agricultural production which is profitable, economically feasible, and based on sound technology and practical production techniques.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provided several opportunities for public input into developing this strategy in addition to the normal public comment period and hearings. The Department worked with the State Conservation Commission (SCC), the Department of Agriculture (PDA), county conservation districts, DEPs Citizens Advisory Council, the Agriculture Advisory Board, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Farmers Union and State Grange, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Nutrient Management Advisory Board, Natural Resources Conservation Service, members of the General Assembly and others in finalizing this strategy and the related, supporting documents, including the Water Quality Management Part II CAFO permit and Individual and General NPDES CAFO permits.
In addition, some elements of this proposal will be codified in new regulations to create Water Quality Management Part II permit and individual NPDES permit requirements specifically applicable to CAFOs These regulations (Chapters 91 and 92) have been proposed and were available for public comment. The DEP plans to provide another opportunity for public comment on the portions of the regulations applicable to CAFOs. The DEP plans to begin implementation of the Water Quality Management Part II and NPDES permit components of this strategy using existing regulations.
Implementation of this strategy will also require additional educational and technical assistance efforts. Implementation can be accomplished with existing staff resources.
When properly managed, manure is an important source of natural nutrients for agriculture crops. Properly applying manure to the land will not cause water quality problems.
Current methods of raising hogs, chickens and other livestock frequently concentrate animals inside buildings or in confined feedlots, rather than using more traditional pasture management and feeding practices.
Economies of scale and modern technology are driving the establishment of these new concentrated livestock and poultry operations. Modern technology allows for increased efficiency in livestock production which is necessary for Pennsylvanias agricultural industry to stay competitive at home, in America, and on the global scene.
For example, while many existing swine operations in the Commonwealth house several hundred sows, many new operations are typically being designed to house 2,500 or more sows. The increasing animal numbers and concentration currently occurring in the swine industry are similar to the increases experienced in the poultry industry over the last 15 years. Likewise, as the number and concentration of animals increases at these operations, the size of manure storage facilities also increases, with some facilities exceeding 1 million gallons of storage.
While operations may vary in size, typically manure is cleaned out of the livestock buildings or from feedlots and stored until it can be spread on farm fields, sold to other farmers or composted. When CAFOs and manure storage facilities are properly designed, constructed and managed, manure from these operations can continue to be an agronomically important and environmentally safe source of nutrients and soil organic matter necessary for the production of food, fiber, and good soil health.
If CAFOs and manure storage facilities are improperly designed, constructed or managed, nutrients from these operations can threaten water quality. Standards for these facilities must ensure that manure storage facilities are structurally sound and do not leak into surface or ground water, that, consistent with Nutrient Management Act requirements, manure and nutrients applied to fields and pastures do not exceed what is needed for actual crop production, do not impact water quality because of accelerated runoff or erosion, and that runoff from barnyards and feeding areas is properly controlled.
Over the past several years, the Departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the State Conservation Commission, county conservation districts and Pennsylvania farm organizations have developed and implemented a series of requirements to prevent adverse water quality impacts from farms and concentrated animal feeding operations.
Under the state Clean Streams Law, DEP adopted requirements covering the storage, handling and application of manure in 1977. These requirements (25 PA Code Chapter 101) have been updated regularly and apply to all operations that produce, store or apply manure by regulating the design, construction and operation of all manure storage facilities and rates of manure application.
Working with the Agriculture Advisory Board, State Grange and other groups, DEP developed the "Manure Management for Environmental Protection Manual" that outlines design and storage requirements for swine, dairy, poultry and other operations. If these practices are not followed, Chapter 101 allows DEP to require individual permits to cover the manure handling facilities. (DEP will update the "Manure Management for Environmental Protection Manual" in light of requirements contained in the regulations implementing the Nutrient Management Act and new Natural Resources Conservation Service design standards.)
The requirements in the "Manure Management for Environmental Protection Manual" are implemented with the assistance of county conservation districts, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and DEP field staff. Incidents of non-compliance are typically investigated first by county conservation districts and local representatives of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. If the issues cannot be resolved by voluntary compliance measures, DEP can take enforcement actions (i.e. compliance orders, penalties). This is especially true where problems cause a threat to water quality.
On October 1, 1997 a new set of statewide requirements designed to protect water quality became effective (25 PA Code Chapter 83). Chapter 83 was established under the Nutrient Management Act of 1993 and assures proper handling and application of manure from concentrated animal operations. Pennsylvania is the first state to require farms to have Nutrient Management Plans. The Nutrient Management Act requires Nutrient Management Plans for concentrated animal operations (CAOs) which have animal densities exceeding 2,000 pounds of animal weight per acre of land available for manure spreading on an annualized basis.
The State Conservation Commission developed regulations outlining requirements for Nutrient Management Plans based on Pennsylvanias experience with the Chesapeake Bay Program and the input of the Nutrient Management Advisory Board, DEP, the Department of Agriculture and other stakeholders.
The Nutrient Management Act requires plans be developed by a nutrient management specialist certified by the Department of Agriculture. The Plans are reviewed by certified nutrient management specialists employed by county conservation districts which may be delegated the responsibility for overseeing plan implementation, maintenance, record-keeping and compliance.
Nutrient Management Plans must contain the following elements:
Nutrient Management Plans are required for approximately 1600 concentrated animal operations in Pennsylvania. In addition, both the Nutrient Management Act and its implementing regulations encourage non-regulated farming operations to develop and implement voluntary nutrient management plans. The State Conservation Commission, county conservation districts, DEP and the Department of Agriculture strongly encourage all livestock and poultry farmers to prepare and implement Nutrient Management Plans for their operations.
To help promote the implementation of proper manure management, the Department of Agriculture, State Conservation Commission and the state Treasury Department have developed a program to make up to $25 million available in low interest loans to farmers to implement best management practices for manure storage and handling and land management. This assistance will supplement cost share funds already available under the Chesapeake Bay Program in the Chesapeake Bay drainage area, as well as federal EQIP funds and other local, state and federal funding available statewide.
In addition to these regulatory requirements, Pennsylvanias Chesapeake Bay Program has worked since 1985 to reduce the nutrient load to the Bay by providing education, technical and financial assistance to farmers in the Bay drainage area to plan and implement proper manure storage, application and land management practices. The Chesapeake Bay Program is a cooperative effort of county conservation districts, DEP, the State Conservation Commission, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other agencies.
More than 900 manure management projects worth $32 million have been financed through the Chesapeake Bay Program. More than 400,000 acres of farmland have already been covered by voluntary manure/nutrient management plans to help ensure excess nutrients do not get into streams and rivers flowing to the Bay. Standards contained in the "Pennsylvania Technical Guide" and nutrient management regulations are in place which guide the design and construction of manure storage facilities.
The federal Clean Water Act and the federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program regulations (40 CFR 122.23) require states to develop water quality permitting requirements to cover concentrated animal feeding operations. "Concentrated animal feeding operations" are defined as operations with either more than 1,000 animal units, or operations with 301 to 1,000 animal units which have the potential to discharge to surface waters.
To meet this federal mandate and in response to the comments received on this strategy DEP is establishing a simplified permitting approach for concentrated animal feeding operations. A new or expanded farming operation with more than 1000 AEUs, a new, expanded, or existing CAO with more than 300 AEUs located in a special protection watershed and any farming operation with a direct discharge to surface waters will be required to obtain an individual NPDES permit. A direct discharge from a feed lot or manure storage facility during a storm event of less than a 25 year/24 hour storm must obtain an individual NPDES permit. All existing CAOs with more than 300 AEUs, all existing farming operations with more than 1000 AEUs and all new or expanded CAOs between 301 and 1000 AEUs will be authorized to operate under a general NPDES permit. The requirements in each category are designed to take both size and potential to have an adverse impact on water quality into account. For purposes of this strategy, a farming operation that is in operation on or before January 16, 1998 (the date of the Departments interim strategy) is considered an existing operation.
The DEP will "phase in" these requirements over the next three years. New facilities will be required to obtain the necessary NPDES permit prior to beginning to operate. Facilities with greater than 1000 AEUs will be required to apply for an NPDES permit within one year from when the strategy is finalized. All other existing operations will be phased in over the next three years. During this phase in period, the Department will work with farmers to correct any existing problems. In addition, where operations that are not CAOs have a direct discharge to surface waters, the Department will provide the farmer with an opportunity to eliminate the discharge and avoid NPDES permitting. Finally, any farming operation can choose to apply for an NPDES permit at any time after the strategy is finalized.
In addition, the DEP will propose to modify its existing Water Quality Management Part II permit program regulations in several ways. First, an individual Water Quality Management Part II CAFO permit will be required for the construction of new or expanded manure storage facilities at any farming operation with more than 1000 AEUs. Second, the regulations will make express the existing policy that all new or expanded manure storage facilities must be designed and constructed in a manner consistent with the Pennsylvania Technical Guide and will require a Pennsylvania professional engineers certification but will not require Water Quality Management Part II CAFO permit. Third, all manure storage facilities must prevent any discharges to surface waters during a storm event less than a 25 year/24 hour storm. Finally, the DEP will require a Pennsylvania professional engineers certification for all existing facilities with greater than 1000 AEUs and will seek comment on whether a lower threshold should be required for special protection waters. These provisions are consistent with the existing regulatory policy, the Nutrient Management Act and the federal CAFO requirements.
For this strategy, definitions for terms, such as animal equivalent units and manure storage facility, taken from the Nutrient Management Act and program will be used to ensure consistency between state programs. The use of Animal Equivalent Units (AEU) from the Nutrient Management Act in place of the federally defined Animal Units (AU) will provide consistency between Pennsylvania programs and will be as protective as the federal requirements.
As described above, existing operations will also be determined to be CAFOs based on AEUs and evaluated based on requirements already in place as a basis for permit coverage. It is possible that changes or new requirements at the federal level may necessitate additional conditions for the permits in the future.
To the extent possible, the requirements for existing operations will use the extensive set of design and management standards already in place. This works out well because of the overlap between concentrated animal operations covered by Pennsylvanias 1993 Nutrient Management Act and the federal NPDES regulations.
The DEP is establishing a set of baseline requirements for all CAFOs. These include a Nutrient Management Plan, an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, an NPDES permit for stormwater discharges associated with construction activities, and a professional engineer certification for new manure storage facility design and construction. These are all existing requirements.
The NPDES permit process requires public participation. In addition, the DEP proposes additional requirements for large farming operations (those with more than 1000 AEUs). These additional requirements are a Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency (PPC) plan, a Water Quality Management Part II CAFO permit for new or expanded manure storage facilities and professional engineers certification for existing manure storage facility design, construction and operation and an importer or broker agreement for addressing the storage and/or land application of exported manure. These are new requirements.
While all CAFOs can apply for coverage under an individual NPDES permit, only new or expanded farming operations with more than 1000 AEUs, any CAO with more than 300 AEUs located in a special protection watershed and any farming operation with a direct discharge to surface waters are required to obtain an individual NPDES permit. A simplified individual permit application form and process has been developed for CAFOs with less than 1001 AEUs. In addition, the $500 permit application fee is waived for these CAFOs. Outside of special protection watersheds, all existing CAOs with more than 300 AEUs, an existing farming operation with more than 1000 AEUs and all new or expanded CAOs with between 301 and 1000 AEUs can apply for NPDES coverage through a general permit by filing a Notice of Intent to Operate (NOI) under the general permit.
Individual permit applications will be made to and reviewed by the DEP. A "notice of intention" (NOI) for coverage under the general permit is a form requesting basic information related to the applicant.
The following discussion provides additional details concerning each of the elements of the DEP CAFO permitting strategy. The required elements for all CAFOS are:
In addition to the these baseline CAFO requirements, all large CAFOs (those with more than 1000 AEUs) must meet the following new requirements:
In the next three years, DEP will assess the potential to discharge manure from existing manure storage facilities of existing CAFOs over 1,000 AEUs. DEP will assess facilities in High Quality and Exceptional Value watershed areas first.
Existing concentrated animal feeding operations are not required to obtain a Part II permit, unless they build a new manure storage facility or expand or replace an existing manure storage facility. These existing operations are required to meet the other applicable elements described above.
As described above, all farming operations with a direct discharge to surface waters during a storm event of less than a 25 year, 24 hour storm are presently required to obtain an individual NPDES permit for discharging wastewater into the waters of the Commonwealth. These operations may or may not be CAOs. The discharges will be covered by NPDES permits that include effluent limitations as well as other terms and conditions, like other treatment and discharge facilities. For facilities with less than 1000 AEUs that are not CAFOs, the Department will provide an opportunity to eliminate the discharge and avoid the need for an NPDES permit. If the operation involves the spreading of manure, it is also subject to the applicable nutrient management requirements. A Part II permit may also be required for construction and operation of the wastewater treatment facility.
DEP, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and County Conservation Districts will continue to cooperatively address complaints for farming operations outside the permit requirements for CAFOs. DEP has the responsibility for assuring compliance with CAFO permit requirements. Operators of CAFOs, like all other NPDES and Part II permit holders, will be subject to self inspection and record keeping as part of their NPDES and Part II Permits. Ensuring compliance with requirements relating to the permits and other enforcement will be carried out by DEP. Where DEP determines non-compliance has occurred, appropriate action will be initiated to abate pollution. CAFOs with more than 1000 AEUs will also be required to submit self inspection reports to the Department on a quarterly basis. Additional details on compliance will be included in the CAFO Compliance Strategy that is being developed and will be available for public comment.
At a minimum, DEP will inspect all CAFOs with over 1000 AEUs annually. For these CAFOs, the DEP will also require that a Pennsylvania registered Professional Engineers certification of the structural integrity of the manure storage facilities be included with each renewal application for an NPDES permit.
Land Use Issue
The state Clean Streams Law and the Nutrient Management Act authorize DEP, the Department of Agriculture and the State Conservation Commission to take steps to prevent water pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations. These laws do not give those agencies the ability or legal responsibility to determine if these operations are an appropriate land development activity for any local community.
On January 16, 1998 DEP released an interim policy covering the consideration of permit applications for any concentrated animal feeding operations received by DEP before this strategy is fully implemented. Applications for Water Quality Part II CAFO Permits received under the interim policy were reviewed by DEP at the same time public comment was accepted on the long term strategy and permit application forms. Permits were not issued until all comments on the strategy and on the permit applications were considered.
The interim policy is no longer needed and is rescinded upon the date of this final strategy. All permit decisions will be based on this strategy and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
Several other documents are related to this strategy. They include:
Application, instructions and proposed conditions for Water Quality Management Part II CAFO Permit (available now from contacts below)
Application, instructions and proposed conditions for Individual NPDES Permit (available now)
Proposed regulations amending and moving Ch. 101 requirements to Ch. 91 (EQB proposed in June 17, 1997, 27 PA Bulletin 4343)
Notice of Intention (NOI) for Coverage and Proposed General NPDES Permit
Model Agreements for Importing Farmers and Brokers
CAFO Nutrient Balance Sheet for Manure Land Application
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Self Inspection Report
Engineer Certification Report for Existing Manure Storage Facilities
In addition, the applicable standards and specifications from the Pennsylvania Technical Guide and Manure Management for Environmental Protection Manual and its supplements, including the Agricultural Composting of Manure are available upon request from the Regional Office of DEP.
The Department of Environmental Protection received over 100 public comments on the proposed strategy and the draft applications and conditions for the individual NPDES and Part II permits for concentrated animal feeding operations during the public comment period that was extended for sixty additional days, for a total of 120 days.
DEP held four combination public meetings/hearings to provide an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the proposal. Each session began with a public information meeting where the Department summarized the proposal and responded to questions. Following each public meeting, the Department held a public hearing to solicit comments on the proposal. Over 125 persons attended the four meetings/hearings held in Lancaster, Bedford, Williamsport and Greensburg.
Comments on the proposal were accepted until October 13, 1998. The Comment and Response Document is Attachment 2 or available from Milt Lauch whose address is listed below.
For More Information
For more information on this strategy, contact Milt Lauch, Chief, Division of Wastewater Management, Bureau of Water Supply and Wastewater Management, P.O. Box 8774, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8774, or telephone 717-787-8184, fax: 717-772-5156 or e-mail: MLauch@state.pa.us.