A coalition of environmental groups has reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over the monitoring of concentrated animal feeding operations, (CAFOs), aka factory farms.
Within twelve months, the EPA must propose a rule that all of the roughly 20,000 large factory farms in the country will be required to submit information on their size, type of animals, and how they dispose of manure and waste.
Current regulations finalized in 2008 only require CAFOs that plan to discharge pollutants into the environment to give such information. But CAFOs can self-certify that they will not be discharging pollutants; about 4700 were expected to do so.
“I think what this information gathering process will help us do is validate and really explore companies claims that they don’t discharge,” said Jon Devine, an attorney for the NRDC.
Sewage from factory farms has been tied to “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay, according to the NRDC. Waste lagoons at factory farms have overflowed, poisoning surrounding land and water supplies. In 1995 25 million gallons of waste water flowed into local waterways in North Carolina after lagoons at two hog operations overflowed.
In 2003 the EPA issued revisions to regulations covering the factory farm industry, and they have been in litigation ever since; Tuesday’s settlement is just the latest round. Devine said the ultimate goal “is making sure that those facilities that can damage water supplies around the country are adequately regulated.”
The EPA defines CAFOs as farms with any of the following: 700 dairy cows; 1,000 veal calves; 1,000 cattle; 2,500 swine weighing more than 55 pounds or 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 pounds; 10,000 sheep or lambs; 55,000 turkeys; and between 30,000 and 125,000 chickens, depending on the manure handling system used, according to the Associated Press.