Animal Waste Dumping Reporting Requirements for Farms Eased by EPA

The illegal dumping of <"">toxic animal waste, usually from factory farms, can inflict serious environmental damage, especially to water supplies.  Yet over the past several ears, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been loosening animal waste disposal standards for livestock producers.  The most recent example of lax EPA regulation is the agency’s announcement today that it is proposing a rule change to provide an administrative reporting exemption for air releases of hazardous substances — primarily ammonia and hydrogen sulfide — from animal waste at farms.

According to website maintained by the Sierra Club, America’s drinking water, rivers and lakes are at risk from giant, corporate-owned factory farms.  These farms produce a staggering 500 million tons of animal waste per year.  Very often, this animal waste is allowed to leak into rivers and streams, fouling the air, contaminating drinking water and spreading disease. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hog, chicken and cattle waste has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. In the past couple of years, several large food poisoning outbreaks related to tainted vegetables have been blamed on run-off fouled by animal waste making its way into tomato, spinach and lettuce fields.

The EPA says that today’s proposed rule change represents a “better” approach for reporting hazardous substance contamination from farm animal waste.  Under the proposal, producers of animal waste would not have to report releases of hazardous substances to the air where the source of those hazardous substances is animal waste at farms. The EPA says notifications would still need to be made when hazardous substances are released to the air from any source other than animal waste (e.g., ammonia tanks) at farms, as well as releases of any hazardous substances at farms to any other environmental media (i.e., soil, ground water, surface water) when the release of those hazardous substances is at or above its reportable quantity for 24 hours.  The EPA is justifying this proposed rule change by asserting that it is not necessary for the agency to respond to such reports.  The EPA say the “proposed rule would reduce the burden on the regulated community of complying with CERCLA and EPCRA reporting requirements. “

The EPA has been showing a great deal of concern for the “burden” that animal waste regulations place on farms.  In 2006, the EPA let thousands of factory-style farms escape severe penalties for fouling the air and water with animal excrement in exchange for data to help curb future pollution.  That year, the EPA signed agreements with 2,681 animal feeding operations in the egg, chicken, turkey, dairy and hog industries. They became exempt from having to pay potential fines of up to $27,500 a day for violations either in the past or over the next four years. EPA officials justified these agreements by claiming it was the most efficient way of obtaining the data needed to determine whether the animal feeding operations are complying with federal air emission laws.

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