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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has reached an agreement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on protecting public health and waterways from manure and other wastes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
"The bottom line is that this agreement will result in an improved environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Thomas Skinner. "And we reached a good balance between regulatory and voluntary approaches to environmental protection. The plan calls for proactive steps to inspect CAFOs and determine whether they are meeting clean water requirements," Skinner said. "At the same time, it addresses concerns expressed by livestock and poultry producers."
Under the plan, MDEQ will work with Michigan citizens to issue a Clean Water Act general permit for CAFOs with 1,000 or more animal units. MDEQ will require facilities to be covered by the permit if they discharge or have discharged wastes to waterways. CAFOs that have not had a discharge can elect to participate in the Michigan Environmental Assurance Program or apply for coverage under the general permit by notifying MDEQ.
Like site-specific permits, general permits include standards of performance and management practices that protect water quality. They also include monitoring and reporting requirements so EPA, MDEQ and citizens know that CAFOs are meeting clean-water standards.
"Michigan has already developed an exemplary voluntary program to control pollution at smaller facilities that are not regulated by the Clean Water Act," Skinner added.
Under the Clean Water Act, animal feeding operations are considered to be CAFOs if they have 1,000 or more animal units, which is equivalent to 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cattle, 2,500 hogs, 55,000 turkeys or 30,000 egg-laying chickens.