As part of a settlement agreement between various environmental groups and the EPA, the EPA agreed to strengthen the oversight of animal feedlots, where bacteria, viruses, and parasites from animal waste allegedly pollute nearby waterways.
The settlement agreement resolves a lawsuit (NRDC v. EPA), initiated by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance. The public interest groups petitioned a federal court to review a 2008 rule under the Clean Water Act that required only certain concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to apply for wastewater discharge permits. Under the 2008 rule, CAFOs could avoid government regulation by making unverified assertions that they did not discharge waste into waterways.
According to the final settlement agreement, the EPA will propose a rule within one year to require all CAFOs to provide information regarding their operations to the EPA, and to update the information every five years. Information regarding quantities of manure, wastewater and litter will be required. The new rule aims to prevent CAFOs from “flying under the regulatory radar.” A guidance document is also to be created that will assist permitting authorities in determining which CAFOs will be required to obtain an NPDES permit.