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Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations(CAFOs)

General Information

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) that confine animals and meet other regulatory criteria. CAFOs offer producers a more efficient way of feeding and housing animals through specialization, increased facility size, and confinement. This method in animal production causes increased volumes of waste to be generated in the confined area. Improperly managed CAFOs can pose threats to human health and the environment. Specifically, improperly managed CAFOs can cause degradation of water quality by contributing pollutants to streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater. Common pollutants associated with CAFOs include: nutrients, organic matter, solids, pathogens, antibiotics, odorous or volatile compounds, and trace elements. Pollutant sources are generated from the direct runoff from the production area, overflows or seepage of waste control structures and/or the production area, and from the over application or improper application of liquid and solid wastes to fields or croplands.

In order to understand whether a facility is a CAFO, the facility must be evaluated to determine if it is an AFO. AFOs are operations in which animals are raised in confined areas, which are typically referred to as the production areas. Production areas include the animal confinement area, the manure storage area, the raw materials storage area including feed storage, and the waste containment/control areas. An operation is considered an AFO if the operation meets both of these conditions: 1.) the animals are confined for at least 45 days during a 12-month period, and 2.) crops, forage growth, and other vegetation are not grown in the area where animals are confined. The 45 days of confinement do not have to be consecutive days and the 12 month period can be any 12 consecutive months.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are AFOs that meet certain regulatory criteria. An AFO can be considered a CAFO if an AFO is defined as a CAFO or an AFO is designated as CAFO. AFOs are defined as CAFOs if the CAFO has a certain number of animals and it meets other criteria in the regulations. The regulations set thresholds for size categories based on the number of animals confined in the production area for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period.

There are two defined thresholds for CAFOs, which include:

Large CAFOs
To be defined as a large CAFO, the operation must:

  • Meet the regulatory definition of an AFO, and
  • Meet the Large CAFO threshold for that animal type. Refer to the General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (General Permit) for threshold sizes.

Medium CAFOs
To be defined as a medium CAFO, the operation must:

  • Meet the regulatory definition of an AFO, and
  • Meet the Medium CAFO threshold for that animal type. Refer to the General Permit for threshold sizes.
  • Meet at least one of the following two criteria:
    • Pollutants are discharged in waters of the state through a man-made ditch, flushing system, or similar man-made device, or
    • Pollutants are discharged directly into waters of the United States which originate outside of and pass over, across, or through the facility or otherwise come in direct contact with the animals confined in the operation.

The discharge criteria only apply to the parts of the operation where you confine animals, store manure or raw materials, and contain waste.

An AFO may be designated as a CAFO based on the Department of Environmental Quality (Department) determination that the operation is a significant contributor of pollutants to state waters. Designation of an AFO as a CAFO is typically completed through the Department completing an inspection of the operation to verify the size and type of operation and the significance of the pollutants.

There are two ways an AFO can become designated as a CAFO:

Medium CAFO

To be designated as a medium CAFO, the operation:

  • Can fall within the size threshold for a medium CAFO, and
  • Does not meet either of the two discharge criteria.

Small CAFO

To designate a small CAFO, the operation must:

  • Not confine enough animals to the meet the medium threshold, and
  • Be determined to be a significant contributor of pollutants, and
  • Meet at least one of the following two criteria:
    • Pollutants are discharged in waters of the state through a man-made ditch, flushing system, or similar man-made device, or
    • Pollutants are discharged directly into waters of the United States which originate outside of and pass over, across, or through the facility or otherwise come in direct contact with the animals confined in the operation.

For further information contact the Water Protection Bureau at (406) 444-3080.

Permit Information

Wastes from confined livestock can be a source of pollutants when they are discharged to state waters. Pollutants most often reach state water as a result of precipitation (rainfall or snow melt). Pollution of surface and ground water is prohibited, and permits are required for discharges containing pollutants.


concentrated animal feeding operations
Source: NCSU/Biological and Agricultural
Engineering

Compliance Information

Compliance Evaluation Inspections

Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are subject to Compliance Evaluation Inspections (CEIs). The purpose of a CEI at an AFO is to determine whether the facility is required to obtain permit coverage under the General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (General Permit). The purpose of a CAFO CEI is to assess whether the permitted facility is in compliance with General Permit and Montana Water Quality Act. CEIs conducted at AFOs or CAFOs are intended to ensure compliance and determine whether facility operations are having an impact to state waters.

AFO and CAFO CEIs are conducted by a Water Protection Bureau Compliance Inspector (inspector) and are typically conducted during or immediately following run-off events. Run-off events can be triggered by snow melt or precipitation. The inspector will contact the owner of the facility and establish a meeting date and time to complete the CEI. CEIs may also be conducted in response to a complaint or alleged Montana Water Quality Act violations, in which case inspector may not contact the owner prior to the CEI.

Please note that the authority to conduct an inspection at an AFO/CAFO is defined in section 402 of the Clean Water Act. The State of Montana establishes its inspection authority of the delegated federal program in Section 75-5-603 of the Montana Code Annotated.

AFO and CAFO CEIs consist of the following components: Entry/Introduction, Records Review, Facility Site Evaluation, and Conclusion/Preliminary Findings. Factual information and observations made by the inspector are presented in the Inspection Report Package.

Entry/Introduction

The purpose of the Entry/Introduction portion of the CEI is to provide the necessary identification to appropriate on-site personnel, state the reason for the CEI, and review the components of the CEI. Examples of information discussed during this portion of the CEI include:

  • Identification/Verification of the Owner/Operator
  • A determination of who is the authorized representative for the facility
  • A determination of whether the facility is being leased, the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the lessor and lessee
  • Address questions concerning the history of the facility including any discharges which may have occurred
  • A determination of the conditions at the facility as they exist at the time of the CEI
Records Review

The purpose of the Records Review portion of the CEI is to review the General Permit and the facility's Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) to ensure the NMP meets the requirements of the General Permit. In order to complete this portion of the CEI, the inspector will request copies of the following information:

  • General Permit
  • Authorization Letter
  • Nutrient Management Plan
  • Transfer Records
  • Production Area Records
  • Land Application Area Records
  • Monitoring Information Records

Additional records that may be requested:

  • Records of mortalities
  • Local Precipitation Records and/or On-Site Rain Gauge Information
  • Animal Inventory Records

During an AFO CEI, available records may be limited, so the inspector will focus on interviewing the owner. The inspector will inquire about the type and number of animals at the facility during a year and existing management practices of manure, litter, and wastewater for the facility.

Facility Site Evaluation

The purpose of the Facility Site Evaluation is to assess site conditions, determine if the NMP is being followed by verifying that Best Management Practices are implemented, assess the condition and adequacy of implemented BMPs, and determine areas of noncompliance. Areas the inspector will review during the Facility Site Evaluation include:

  • Production Area
    • Waste Control Structures
    • Confinement Areas
    • BMPs
    • Food Storage Areas
    • Pesticide Storage Areas
    • Maintenance Facilities
  • Land Application Areas
  • Mortality Disposal Areas

During the Facility Site Evaluation, the inspector will take photos and take notes to provide supporting evidence for areas of noncompliance.

During an AFO CEI, the inspector will focus on the management of the production area and land application areas, if applicable, to determine the potential impacts or impacts to water quality.

Conclusion/Preliminary Findings

The purpose of the Conclusion/Preliminary Findings portion of the CEI is to provide preliminary findings and explain the Inspection Report process. Additionally, this portion allows the permittee to ask questions and allows both parties to clarify issues which arose during the CEI. If additional information is required from the permittee to complete the CEI, the inspector will provide a list of information and specify a date for submittal. Finally, if there are immediate areas of concern, the inspector will identify the problems and what the expectation are of the permittee.

Please Note: Any information presented during the Conclusion/Preliminary Findings is preliminary. The final factual findings and observations will be documented in the Inspection Report Package.

Inspection Report Package

The purpose of the Inspection Report Package is to document areas of noncompliance identified during the CEI and require the permittee to complete corrective actions to return to compliance. Additional information included in the Inspection Report Package may include areas of potential noncompliance. The Final Inspection Report Package will include:

  • Cover Letter
  • MPDES 3560 Form
  • Narrative Inspection Report
  • Photo Report

If the Cover Letter is a Letter of Violation, the permittee is required to compose a written response addressing each one of the factual findings and observations presented in the Narrative Inspection Report. The Letter of Violation will specify a date the written response is due.

If the Cover Letter is a Letter of Compliance, the permittee is required to read through the Narrative Inspection Report and address any areas of potential noncompliance. A written response may be required dependent upon the identified areas of potential noncompliance.

Please Note: It is the expectation of the Department that the permittee address each of the factual findings presented in the Narrative Inspection Report. Please contact the inspector if there are questions regarding the content of the Narrative Inspection Report or if assistance is needed in composing a required response.

For further information, contact the Water Protection Bureau at (406) 444-3080.

Discharge Notification Reporting

Discharge Notification Reporting is required when a permittee identifies that a discharge of pollutants has occurred from the permitted facility. Discharges can include any overflow of manure, litter, or process wastewater or any other discharge pollutants from the production area.

Any permitted facility that experiences a discharge of pollutants, whether or not the discharge is authorized by the General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, the permittee is required to notify the Department orally within 24 hours from the time the permittee became aware of the discharge and provide a five-day written report. Contact a Compliance Inspector at the Department's Water Protection Bureau at (406) 444-3080. If the discharge occurs on a weekend or holiday, the permittee is required to leave a message. The 24-hour oral notification and five-day report must include the following information:

  • MPDES Permit Authorization Number
  • Facility or Site Name
  • Name and Phone Number of Individual Reporting Noncompliance
  • A description of the discharge and its cause, including its flowpath to state waters
  • An estimate of the volume and duration of the discharge
  • The period of discharge, including exact dates and times
  • If the discharge is from an unpermitted location (noncompliance), the steps taken or planned by the permittee to reduce, eliminate, and prevent recurrence of the discharge

After receipt of the 24-hour oral notification, the Compliance Inspector will specify a date to submit the five-day written report. The five day written report is to be mailed to:

Department of Environmental Quality
Water Protection Bureau
c/o (Name of Compliance Inspector)
PO Box 200901
Helena, MT 59620-0901

The Compliance Inspector will review the submitted material and draft a Department response. It is the expectation of the Department that the permittee address and complete any required corrective actions unless otherwise specified.

Additionally, facilities that experience a discharge of pollutants are required to collect a representative sample of the discharge and complete sample analysis for the following parameters: E.coli, Total Ammonia Nitrogen, Total Phosphorous, Five-Day Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Total Suspended Solids, and pH. If the permitted facility is unable to collect samples during the discharge because of unsafe sampling conditions, the permittee is required to provide a written explanation with the Five-Day Written Report. Please note: sample collection is still required from the waste control structure or area that discharged once safe sampling conditions have resumed. The monitoring results of the discharge are to be reported on the Discharge Monitoring Report due by January 28th of each year for the previous calendar year.

For further information, contact the Water Protection Bureau at (406) 444-3080.