DEQ announces CAFO permit change to protect Michigan waters

May 4, 2015

For More Information
Brad Wurfel, 517-284-6713, wurfelb@michigan.gov
Mike Bitondo, 517-234-5594, bitondom@michigan.gov

The DEQ today announced a change to its permits for large farms as part of the state’s efforts to better protect Michigan waters from agricultural runoff.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations throughout the state are all governed by a discharge permit developed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which establishes standards and practices to help large farms avoid damaging the environment. The DEQ periodically reviews and updates its general CAFO permit, authorized under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, which is part of the federal Clean Water Act.

CAFOs are not allowed to spread manure on frozen or snow-covered grounds under except under very strict, limited circumstances, but they previously have been allowed to transfer their excess manure to other operations not specifically prohibited from winter spreading.

The change announced today with the reissuing of the general permit disallows large farms to “manifest,” or transfer farm waste to other operations from January through March unless the recipient follows the winter spreading technical standard.

The change responds to several incidents during the past few winters where waste from CAFO operations was transferred to other operations, which spread the material on their lands for fertilizer and subsequently impacted drains, creeks and rivers during the spring thaw.

The change is expected to further minimize incidents of farm runoff to surface waters during spring melts, and will safeguard Michigan’s valuable water resources while providing a reasonable regulatory framework for farmers.

This permit update is one of Michigan’s many efforts to reduce phosphorus and nutrient loading to Lake Erie and other surface waters. The state enacted phosphorus limits on cleaning products during the 1970s, and in 2012, banned the use of phosphorus in residential lawn fertilizers. Michigan also is focused on reducing phosphorus outputs from wastewater treatment plants.

In accordance with its usual permitting process, the DEQ placed a draft version of the new CAFO general permit on public notice on Dec. 19, 2014, and held a public hearing Jan. 21, 2015. The department received a lot of great input on the permit, and made revisions based on public comment.

Both the permit and the responsiveness summary about public comments can be reviewed at www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313_3682_3713-96774--,00.html.