Have you ever benefited from someone flashing their high beams to warn you that a “cop” was just around the corner? If you are like me, probably so. I have personally “benefited” from these warnings from my fellow motorists and avoided costly tickets. Consider this our precautionary flash of the high beams because there might be an EPA “cop” up ahead for agriculture. Here is just the latest of what we have “spotted.”
• According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), “Region 4 should strengthen oversight of Georgia’s concentrated animal feeding operation program.” In a 17-page document dated June 23, 2011, the EPA OIG states, “…our review identified a number of deficiencies for 34 of the 48 CAFOs Georgia inspected. CAFOs were operating without NPDES permits or Nutrient Management Plans, inspection reports were missing required components, and the Georgia Department of Agriculture was not assessing compliance with permit conditions.”
As part of their recommendations the OIG states, “We recommend that the Regional Administrator, EPA Region 4
1. Implement controls between EPA Region 4 and GEPD (Georgia Environmental Protection Division) to:
a. Require enforcement data tracking between GEPD and Region 4.
b. Assure CAFO inspections are accurate and complete.
c. Assure that GEPD takes timely and appropriate enforcement actions” (emphasis added).
As an interesting side note, the impetus for this action came from an EPA Hotline Complaint. http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2011/20110623-11-P-0274.pdf
• In our June 30th blog we stated that 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.
This, combined with the focus on the Chesapeake Bay watershed, should cause farmers to sit up and take notice and look at environmental compliance issues at their farms (NPDES, SPCC, Nutrient Management, et al).
There is little doubt the EPA cops are around the corner. Will they enforce? I’m not a gambling man, but if the EPA hires someone and their title is “CAFO Enforcement Officer,” I’ll place my bet on increased enforcement.