EPA Region 5 Hiring New Sheriffs to Focus on Livestock Agriculture

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin might want to take note of a recent job opening in EPA Region 5. According to a recent EPA job posting, EPA Region 5 is looking for a “CAFO Enforcement Officer.” The CAFO Enforcement Officer will conduct inspections, investigate cases of violation, and/or prepare enforcement actions.

The focus of the new inspector’s role, according to the job posting, will be enforcement under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which is part of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

As an aside, there is a deadline for compliance with the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans this fall, which is also under the CWA.

With the EPA hiring new “sheriffs” to focus on CAFOs, you can draw your own conclusion about what this may mean (see our June 3, 2011, blog posting for more on EPA’s focus on CAFOs).

Here is link to the EPA Region 5 position http://www.ag.purdue.edu/agecon/Lists/agecon_undergrad_jobs_full/Attachments/177/EPA%20-%20CAFO%20Enforcement%20Officer.pdf

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Vapour Intrusion: A Significant Regulatory Driver in Ontario?

With July 1st on the horizon, you may be thinking about getting together with friends and family for a picnic and celebration of Canada Day.  But July 1, 2011, also holds significance for businesses affected by the changes to Ontario Regulation (O.Reg.) 153/04, O.Reg. 511/09, as amended, which becomes effective on this date. 

The specific concern for many in the regulated community is how the new standards will impact site assessments and when the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) will publish technical guidance for soil Vapour Intrusion (VI) assessment.  The O.Reg. 511/09 regulatory standards for soil and groundwater are based on, among other pathways, soil to indoor air and groundwater to indoor air pathways.  It should be noted that 30 out of the 98 (non-metal) standards for chemicals reported in Table 2 (standards for soil residential land use, potable water scenario) are based on soil to indoor air calculations.  It would seem based on this information that VI to indoor air is important to the MOE.  This focus on VI is why the regulated community is anxious to see guidance from the MOE.   

It is important to note that the calculations conducted by the MOE to derive the published soil standards assumed generic (often conservative) site conditions.  Consequently, soil at a given site may have chemical concentrations exceeding soil standards, but this may not automatically translate into exceeding indoor air concentration limits.  The MOE will likely allow the use of site specific conditions to calculate site specific screening levels that still ensure that indoor air concentrations are within acceptable criteria.  Because of the prescriptive nature of the O.Reg 511/09 Amendments, the MOE will likely be as prescriptive in the upcoming technical guidance relating to VI assessment.

As new information becomes available, we will provide updates. For a more detailed discussion on VI sampling methodologies, see our article in Environmental Science and Engineering or click here http://www.dragun.com/ca/press/news/vapour/vapour_intrusion.pdf

We hope you take time to enjoy your Canada Day holiday, and if you have any questions about environmental site assessments, remediation, permitting, or specific questions about VI, please feel free to contact our office at 519-979-7300.

EPA Enforcement at Livestock Agriculture Facilities

“Listen, we all want clean air—we want clean water—but we’re not targeting agriculture to do it…”   -EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, speaking to farmers in Iowa in April, 2011

Flash forward one month…

  • An associated Press report on May 27, 2011, states that seven dairy farms in the Shenandoah Valley were inspected by the EPA. According to the news reports, the inspections focused on small dairy operations.
  • On May 26, 2011, the EPA sent a press release that said in part, “A beef feedlot in Underwood, Iowa, has agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty for unpermitted discharges of wastewater from the facility into Mosquito Creek.”
  • On May 16, 2011, the EPA sent a press release that stated, “EPA Region 7 announced today that it has issued administrative compliance orders to seven concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, directing those operations to correct a range of violations of the federal Clean Water Act.”

So which is it you may ask, is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focused on livestock agriculture or not?  We’ve said for some time that we believe the EPA will focus more and more on livestock agriculture.  Why would we say this?  Because according to the EPA’s stated National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013, they have made it clear where they are going to focus their efforts.  

According to the EPA, number two of the six “Enforcement Initiatives” is, “Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Ground Waters.”

 “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are agricultural operations where animals live in a confined environment. CAFOs can contain large numbers of animals, feed, manure, dead animals and production operations on a small land area.  The animals generate a large amount of manure, which typically is held in lagoons or spread on nearby fields.  If not properly controlled, manure can overflow from lagoons or run off from the fields into nearby surface waters or seep into ground water, carrying disease-causing pathogens, nutrients, or other contaminants into the water.  This contaminates both surface waters and ground waters that may be used as drinking water sources and harms fish and other aquatic species in surface waters.  Several studies have found high concentrations of CAFOs in areas with low income and non-white populations. This is typical in many rural areas of the country where livestock facilities are located.  Children in these populations may be particularly susceptible to potential adverse health effects through exposure to contaminated surface waters or drinking water from contaminated ground water sources.  The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of these pollutants into surface waters, and EPA’s regulations require larger CAFOs to have permits (which impose control requirements) if the waste produced by animals on the farm will run off into surface waters.  However, many CAFOs are not complying with these requirements.  Therefore, EPA will continue and strengthen its enforcement focus on these facilities.  For FY2011-13, OECA will focus primarily on existing large and medium CAFOs identified as discharging without a permit” (emphasis added) http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/data/planning/initiatives/initiatives.html#cafos.

Should livestock agriculture be concerned about potential enforcement by the EPA? It seems that a prudent course of action is this: be prepared.  If you are required to have a permit or plan, make sure it is up-to-date and implemented.  If you don’t need a permit or plan, make sure you know why you don’t need it and are ready to “defend” your position.  If you’re not sure if you are required to have a permit or plan, you might want to figure this out before the EPA provides you with their opinion.

Finally, it may be a good idea to have at your ready, the name and phone number of your environmental consultant and attorney…just in case.

If you need assistance with an environmental permitting or planning issue, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) or Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com).