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EPA issued guidance - Implementation Guidance on CAFO Regulations—CAFOs That Discharge or Are Proposing to Discharge - on May 28 aimed at clarifying what concentrated animal feeding operations must do to comply with federal clean water regulations and to help CAFO owners determine whether they need a permit. The guidance is designed to help owners and operators do an assessment of their feedlots and to help authorities determine whether the feedlots are in compliance with EPA rules. Under EPA regulations at 40 CFR Part 122.23, CAFOs must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit if they discharge or propose to discharge pollutants. The rules say that a CAFO proposes to discharge if “based on an objective assessment it is designed, constructed, operated, or maintained such that a discharge will occur.” The guidance sets out the parameters for doing such an assessment, addressing issues such as possible sources of pollutants and other factors.

 

The guidance follows a May 25 final settlement agreement in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Court in which EPA agreed to tighten oversight of animal feedlots where bacteria, viruses, and parasites from animal waste can pollute nearby waterways (NRDC v. EPA, 5th Cir., No. 08-61093, 5/25/10. Under the settlement, EPA agreed to make publicly available by May 28 guidance to help authorities implement NPDES permit regulations and effluent limitations guidelines and standards for CAFOs by specifying the circumstances that trigger the duty to apply for permits. Also under the agreement, EPA agreed to propose within one year a rule to require all CAFOs to submit details to the agency about their operations and to update the information every five years. More information on CAFOs