Final Rule Posted: Agriculture Gets Extension

As reported in our October 18, 2011, blog, the EPA has finalized the SPCC deadline extension (to May 10, 2013) for agriculture. According to the EPA

The date is being amended because a large segment of the continental U.S. was affected by flooding during the spring and summer of 2011, and other areas were impacted by devastating fires and drought conditions. In addition, despite the targeted farm outreach efforts by EPA over the past ten months, the sheer number of farms throughout the U.S. makes it a challenge to reach those owners and operators of farms that may be subject to the SPCC Plan regulations. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-11-22/pdf/2011-29901.pdf

This is not a “blanket extension,” even for agriculture. We encourage producers to clearly understand their regulatory obligations and avoid non-compliance.

If you have any questions about the SPCC rules, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) or Matthew Schroeder (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

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SPCC Amendments: The Deadline Has Passed

Yesterday, November 10, 2011, was the deadline to comply with the (United States Environmental Protection Agency) SPCC rule amendments.  You may recall that last fall, many facilities were given an extra year to comply with the SPCC rule amendments*. 

One of my colleagues was recently at a seminar and heard a regulator speak about the, now expired, deadline.  The regulatory was unapologetic in how they viewed enforcement now that we have moved past the SPCC rule deadline; tough talk or an indication of regulatory enforcement?

You can find information about the SPCC rules on the EPA website http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/content/spcc/

If you have any specific questions or need assistance, contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

*Agriculture was given until May 2013 to comply with the amendments.  See our October 18, 2011 blog.

Ten “Simple” and Potentially Costly Groundwater Errors

Simple groundwater measurement errors can lead to very costly, and often times unnecessary, groundwater remediation.  That’s why our seminars on soil and groundwater remediation focus on the fundamentals of site characterization before we delve into the remediation options. 

One of the takeaways we provide at our seminars is this list of common groundwater errors.  While this really is a list of simple errors, the consequences are no laughing matter. 

  1. Some wells considered for groundwater flow direction determination are in a different aquifer from others. 
  2. Wells are placed in excavations where tanks had been removed, and the excavation backfilled with sand.  The water levels from these monitoring wells may not be representative of those in the surrounding native soil. 
  3. Wells are improperly screened.  A well screen may be too long (potential for vertical gradient effect);  too deep, if intended as a water table well; or too shallow, periodically resulting in its position above the water table. 
  4. Water levels in isolated and disconnected pockets of shallow groundwater are used to calculate directions of groundwater flow. 
  5. Top-of-casing elevation for a well is incorrect.  This may be the result of a surveying error on the well, the datum for the survey is incorrect, or the well elevation has changed (due to subsidence in landfills, frost heave, or slope movement). 
  6. The water level was not stable when measured.  This may occur because a well was not allowed to vent prior to measurement or for wells screened in a low permeability formation; the water level had not stabilized after construction or sampling. 
  7. There were errors in water level measurements.  This could occur because the depth to water was not measured from a specified mark on the well, someone read the measuring tape incorrectly, the measuring tape was faulty, or someone transcribed the observation incorrectly. 
  8. There are calculation errors.  Someone made an error in subtracting depth to water from top-of-casing elevation or failed to account for the effect of density of a free-phase chemical. 
  9. Wells are identified incorrectly or they are damaged (broken, bent, leaky). 
  10. Short-term changes in water levels are ignored.  These could be due to a recharge event, air entrapment, evapotranspiration, bank storage, tidal effects, atmospheric pressure, an external load, an earthquake, or groundwater pumping. 

Obtaining groundwater elevations and determining groundwater flow directions should be one of the easiest tasks your consultant or expert does.  Unfortunately, basic water level measurements are often done incorrectly.  When these basic steps generate bad data, then the conclusions are likely wrong as well.

If you have any questions about groundwater related issues, contact Michael Sklash, Ph.D., P.Eng (msklash@dragun.com).  For more information about The Dragun Corporation go to our website, www.dragun.com

 

 

Proposed NPDES Rule for CAFOs

The most recent chapter in the Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations for livestock agriculture is now in the form of a proposed rule.  On October 14, 2011, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) reporting rule for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). 

If you recall in 2008, the EPA revised the NPDES regulations (in response to the Waterkeeper decision) to, among other things, require only those CAFOs that discharge, or propose to discharge, to obtain an NPDES permit.  More recently, on March 15, 2011, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the requirement in the 2008 CAFO rule that CAFOs that propose to discharge obtain an NPDES permit.  The ruling said there must be an actual discharge to trigger a requirement for a permit (an NPDES Permit under the CWA).

On the other hand, the EPA committed in 2010 to propose a rule (pursuant to section 308 of the CWA) that would require CAFOs to provide certain information to the EPA.  The agreement essentially obligated the EPA to require all owners and operators of CAFOs to submit information to the EPA.  The specific requirements in the settlement agreement include the following:

1. Name and address of the owner and operator;

2. If contract operation, name and address of the integrator;

3. Location (longitude and latitude) of the operation;

4. Type of facility;

5. Number and type(s) of animals;

6. Type and capacity of manure storage;

7. Quantity of manure, process wastewater, and litter generated annually by the CAFO;

8. Whether the CAFO land-applies;

9. Available acreage for land application;

10. If the CAFO land-applies, whether it implements a nutrient management plan for land application;

11. If the CAFO land-applies, whether it employs nutrient management practices and keeps records on site consistent with 40 CFR 122.23(e);

12. If the CAFO does not land apply, alternative uses of manure, litter and/or wastewater;

13. Whether the CAFO transfers manure off site, and if so, quantity transferred to recipient(s) of transferred manure; and

14. Whether the CAFO has applied for an NPDES permit.

EPA’s authority to collect information under section 308 from point source discharges is broader than the EPAs authority to enforce a requirement to apply for an NPDES permit.  According to the EPA, this proposed rule is for “…gathering basic information from CAFOs; it does not require them to obtain permits.”

To achieve this objective of gathering information, the EPA proposes two options.

-Under the first option, the EPA is proposing those states with approved NPDES permits submit the information to the EPA.

-Under the second option, the EPA would focus on “watersheds with water quality problems likely attributable to CAFOs…”

Both these options include significant details that should be reviewed carefully by stakeholders. For example, in the second option, one way in which EPA would focus on specific watersheds is to look at CAFOs located in “minority, low-income, and indigenous communities…” This environmental justice aspect can become very complicated and emotionally charged.

This proposed rule has a 60-day comment period and EPA has scheduled two webcasts to discuss this proposed rule (http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/outreach.cfm?program_id=0&otype=1).  EPA also has stated they are committed to take final action on the rule by July 13, 2012. You can read the proposed rule here http://www.epa.gov/npdes/regulations/cafo_fr_proposed_reporting_rule.pdf

If you have any questions about NPDES permits, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) or Matthew Schroeder (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.