Environmental Protection Commission adopts federal requirements on animal feeding operations

In a unanimous vote, the Environmental Protection Commission adopted rules governing totally roofed confinement feeding operations August 19.
The rules require these facilities to have a federal permit to discharge to waters of the U.S. called a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit. Operations that need the permits must meet federal design, construction and monitoring standards.
However, the NPDES permit allows discharges of effluent to a water of the U.S. under certain conditions, such as heavy rainfall. Depending upon the location, an NPDES-permitted facility in Iowa would be allowed to discharge if more than 5.6 inches of rain fell within 24 hours.
“Iowa has 167 open feedlots with NPDES permits,” said Bill Ehm, DNR administrator for environmental services. “These unroofed or partially roofed facilities have historically had some runoff through the feedlot when it rains. I don’t expect many NPDES permits to be issued to confinements.”
“Most confinements will not need the protection of an NPDES permit, because they are unlikely to discharge,” Ehm added. “Most manure releases we’ve had in Iowa have been caused by a one-time event – like an accident or failure of a pipe – problems that the producer can demonstrate have been fixed with permanent measures that eliminate the cause of the discharge.
 “However, the owner of a confinement or open lot that is likely to discharge would be wise to apply for an NPDES permit and the protection it provides in severe weather conditions,” Ehm added.
Any NPSDES permit holders must continue to meet existing requirements of Iowa law for construction permits and siting, manure management plans and land application.
The Iowa Legislature directed the commission to adopt the federal rules. Adoption was also a condition of a work plan agreement signed between the DNR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency September 11, 2013.
 More information is available at www.iowadnr.gov/afo/.