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Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)

Releases to the air from animal waste at CAFOs

The EPA has finalized a new rule that addresses how releases to the air of hazardous substances from animal waste (manure, digestive emissions, and urea) at farms must be reported. This new rule amends the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and exempts all farms from reporting air releases from animal waste to federal agencies. It amends the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and requires only Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to report air releases from animal waste to local and state agencies.

Animal waste is a source of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide releases to the air. These are hazardous substances that, when released into the environment above certain quantities, trigger notification responsibilities under federal regulations.

The exemptions created by the new rule do not impact EPA's authority to respond to citizen complaints or requests for assistance from state or local government agencies to investigate releases of hazardous substances from farms. Accidental releases of pesticides or anhydrous ammonia must still be reported regardless of the size of the farm.

The final rule affecting livestock facilities was published December 18, 2008. Owners/operators of certain livestock operations are obligated as of January 20, 2009, to comply with the air emission reporting provisions.

Who is subject to this release reporting requirement?

The provisions only apply to CAFOs. The CAFO threshold is the same as that defined in the NPDES regulations. The CAFO is subject to the regulations if it stables or confines animals in numbers equal to or more than the numbers of animals specified for each category below:

  • 700 mature dairy cows, whether milked or dry
  • 1,000 veal calves
  • 1,000 cattle other than mature dairy cows or veal calves  ("Cattle" includes, but is not limited to, heifers, steers, bulls and cow/calf pairs.)
  • 2,500 swine each weighing 55 pounds or more
  • 10,000 swine each weighing less than 55 pounds
  • 500 horses
  • 10,000 sheep or lamb
  • 55,000 turkeys
  • 30,000 laying hens or broilers, if the farm uses a liquid manure handling system
  • 125,000 chickens (other than laying hens) if the farm uses other than a liquid manure handling system
  • 82,000 laying hens, if the farm uses other than a liquid manure handling system
  • 30,000 ducks (if the farm uses other than a liquid manure handling system)
  • 5,000 ducks (if the farm uses a liquid manure handling system)

Animals that are not stabled or confined (i.e. those that reside primarily outside of an enclosed structure such as a barn or a feed lot) and graze on pastures are not counted toward the threshold. Do not add together animals that fall in different categories when determining if your farm is subject.  Do not add together animals that are located on separate sites to determine if the farm qualifies as a CAFO.

If you signed the Air Emissions Consent Agreement in 2005 or 2006, and paid the stipulated facility-size-based penalty to the US Treasury, you do not need to do anything at this time. EPA will announce the results of the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study at some time in the future, and will determine after that whether and how the participants in the Agreement need to report emissions.

What releases must be reported?

Releases to the air of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from animal waste must be reported. The threshold for reporting each of these substances is 100 pounds released in a 24-hour period.

If your farm is subject to these regulations, then you should combine the emissions from all animal categories on your farm.  For example, if you have 800 mature dairy cows and 500 heifers, your farm is subject because of the 800 mature dairy cows.  The total emissions would be the combination of the emissions from the dairy cows plus the emissions from the heifers.  Do not, however, combine the emissions from multiple separate CAFO sites.

Hazardous substance releases that are emitted to the air from animal waste are considered to be continuous and stable in quantity and rate. These releases qualify for continuous release reporting. This means that instead of reporting the release every day that it exceeds the threshold, you can report the continuous release one time.  Future release reports are only required if there is a "significant" change in the amount released.  It is recommended that you recalculate the emissions when the EPA publishes emission factors.

How do I determine how much ammonia and hydrogen sulfide is being released?

The EPA is not expected to publish any emissions estimating methodologies until the end of 2010 at the earliest. In the mean time, farms can use currently available formulas to estimate their emissions with the understanding that the estimate could be substantially above or below the actual emission rate that is being determined through an ongoing monitoring study in cooperation with the U.S. EPA.

Calculation tables and worksheets for figuring your facility's continuous emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are available below. The worksheets are for your use only - Do not submit them with your report to the state and local agencies.

What is the process to report the releases?

The initial verbal notification of releases should have been made on or before January 20, 2009. If you missed this deadline, you should make the notification as soon as possible.

The initial verbal notification should be made to:

1. The Pollution Emergency Alerting System (PEAS) hotline: 800-292-4706
2. Your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)

In your initial verbal notification, tell the agency that:

  • You are reporting a non-emergency continuous release of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from a CAFO;
  • The emissions have potentially exceeded the reportable quantity; and
  • You will submit a written follow-up report within 30 days.

The written follow-up report must be submitted within 30 days of the initial verbal notification. If you called in your report on January 20, 2009, then the follow-up report would be due by February 19, 2009. Below is a form and instructions that you can use for your follow-up report. While a cover letter is not required, the cover letter suggested by the Cattlemen's Beef Association is also provided below.

The written report should be mailed to the Michigan SARA Title III Program and to your LEPC.

For certified mail:
Michigan SARA Title III Program
Dept. of Environmental Quality
PO Box 30457
Lansing, MI  48909-7957
Michigan SARA Title III Program
Dept. of Environmental Quality
Constitution Hall, 1 North
525 W. Allegan
Lansing, MI  48933

The written report is not species specific, and you are not required to show your emissions calculations or animal numbers on the written report, only to report the total emissions. Please keep a copy of the written report form along with your calculation sheets as part of your farm records.

Who can I contact if I have questions?

If you have any questions, feel free to email your commodity group representative or the following MSU Extension Educators:

Dairy: Faith Cullens,, 989.224.5240
Beef: Jeannine Grobbel,, 989.269.9949 x 612
Beef: Kevin Gould,, 616.527.5357
Poultry: Paul Wylie,, 269.673.0370 x 23
Swine: Jerry May,, 989.875.5233

Questions regarding the regulation can be addressed to Susan Parker in the Michigan SARA Title III Program:, 517-335-4650

You may also visit the MSU Extension website:

Calling Extension does not relieve you of the duty to make the required, timely contacts with the state and local agencies as required in the EPCRA regulation.

CAFO Air Emission Webinar Archive