EPA aims to bring Idaho in line with most of the country
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking the public to review a new proposed Clean Water Act permit that would affect concentrated animal feeding operations in Idaho.
If enacted as proposed, the permit will regulate discharges to surface waters from many Idaho dairies and feedlots, including those on tribal lands.
"There are still enough environmental and health concerns with these CAFOs that it remains a national priority," said Nick Peak, EPA Region 10 CAFO coordinator in Boise.
"This is a significant permit for us. We're doing this work in all 50 states," said Jim Werntz, director of EPA's Idaho operations.
While the permit is new to Idaho, the state is one of four where the permit isn't yet authorized, Werntz said.
The new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit is required by the Clean Water Act for facilities that discharge or propose to discharge manure, litter or wastewater into streams, lakes or other surface waters.
It will be a tough sell, Werntz said.
"It's an expensive program to run, $2 (million) to $4 million per year. It's a tall order in the economic climate in Idaho and the rest of the country," he said.
The permit could offer protection for livestock producers. In addition to operating under best management plans and in compliance with the Clean Water Act, the permit offers protection from third-party lawsuits.
Idaho Dairymen's Association is advising all dairies with more than 200 mature cows with the remotest chance of discharging to do a risk analysis of their operation to determine if a permit is needed.
"The only way you can look at NPDES permits is on a case-by-case basis," said Bob Naerebout, IDA executive director.
The permit could help producers avoid hefty penalties. The Clean Water Act authorizes EPA to seek a judicial penalty of up to $37,500 per day per violation or an administrative penalty of up to $16,000 per day per violation with a statutory maximum of $177,500 for illegal discharges.
The permit would allow a operators to discharge to surface waters if they are in compliance with the general permit.
In addition to the standard notice of intent required for a permit, owners and operators must submit their newest nutrient management plan for review. EPA will then review the notice of intent and nutrient management plans and make them available for public comment before granting the permit. Producers would also have to file an annual report to EPA, noting any changes in their operation.
CAFOs that have had permits in the past, currently discharge or propose to discharge will have 90 days to submit their notice of intent and nutrient management plans to obtain coverage under the new permit.
"I don't think we know how many producers are going to participate in the permit," Peak said.
About 55 producers have already submitted applications and nutrient management plans for the permit, and Peak said he expects to receive more now that the proposed permit is finished.
EPA will continue its coordination with the state of Idaho, tribal and local governments, environmental groups and other interested parties to offer compliance.
Brian Oakey, Idaho State Department of Agriculture deputy director, said the permit is independent of state requirements.
"Our programs will continue to operate as they exist," he said.
The comment period ends Jan. 19.
EPA's proposed final CAFO rule: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/afo/
More information: Nick Peak, EPA Regional CAFO coordinator, 208-378-5765, email@example.com
Meetings on proposed permit
* 1-5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, U.S. Fish and Game, 1345 Barton Road, Pocatello.
* 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, U.S. Fish and Game, 324 S. 417 East, Jerome.
* 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, Idaho Fish and Game, 3101 S. Powerline Road, Nampa.