Washington Dept. of Ecology updates clean water permit for animal feeding operations

Permit addresses manure management at facilities that confine large numbers of livestock, poultry or other animals in order to protect water quality.

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OLYMPIA, WA, June 15, 2016 -- Large livestock and animal facilities are one step closer to having a standard set of practices that protect surface and groundwater quality under an updated permit proposed by the Washington Department of Ecology.

Ecology is updating the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) general permit, which expired in 2011. The permit addresses manure management at facilities that confine large numbers of livestock, poultry or other animals in order to protect water quality.

Changes in the new permit will address protection of groundwater health, and will primarily cover dairies. The updated permit expands coverage from 10 facilities to an estimated 150-200 facilities across Washington, accounting for up to 95 percent of all dairy cows in Washington.

After issuing a preliminary draft in 2015, Ecology spent almost a year meeting with farmers, environmental groups, agencies, legislators and tribes to solicit their concerns and input. The updated permit is a result of that engagement.

“Listening has been a big part of this process,” said Heather Bartlett, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality Program. “We’re confident that the permit will make strides for clean water, while respecting a hard-working industry that provides a backbone to our state’s economy.”

“We commend Ecology’s efforts to reach out to the agriculture industry and all stakeholders in drafting the CAFO permit and look forward to working in partnership on its implementation,” said Kirk Robinson, Department of Agriculture deputy director. “By working together and building partnerships we better serve the people of Washington.”

Since the last draft, Ecology added a permitting threshold where facilities with less than 200 head of livestock will not be required to seek coverage, focusing instead on the larger animal operations.

Two types of permits will be available under the proposal. Farms with groundwater discharges only would need a state-only permit. Farms with discharges to surface water would need a combined state/federal permit.

The draft permit is available for public review through 5 p.m., Aug. 17. Ecology is holding workshops and public hearings in Bellingham on July 26, in Yakima on July 28, and an online webinar workshop and hearing on July 27.

Proposed CAFO permit facts at a glance

· Farms with unlined manure-storage lagoons that discharge to groundwater would need a permit.

· Farms with manure discharges to surface waters would need a permit.

· Covers animal feeding operations with 200 head or more that have a discharge, primarily dairies.

· Covers up to 95 percent of all dairy cows in Washington.

· Requires soil testing and restricts winter-application of manure on land.

· Department of Agriculture dairy inspectors will help Ecology identify which farms need a CAFO permit.

· Setbacks and buffers from streams and ditches remain unchanged from federal CAFO regulations.

Source: Washington Department of Ecology

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