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Re: E-M:/ RE: / DEQ Director Chester Defends CAFOs in Letter to the Editor

Enviro-Mich message from "Alexander J. Sagady" <ajs@sagady.com>

At 02:28 PM 02/20/2006, you wrote:
>Enviro-Mich message from Rane Curl <ranecurl@engin.umich.edu>
>On Mon, 20 Feb 2006, Trigger, Grant R. wrote:
>>Where is the E coli coming from in the upstream waters - seems to me
>>having that information might be relevant before reaching any
>>conclusions - or don't the facts matter?

Grant, you've heard of "truthiness" from Steven Colbert?   What we have
is the appearances of environmental and wastewater management from this
CAFO industry without actually achieving such a result in practice.   For example
there are practice standards from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and 
there are requirements for the content of CAFO Comprehensive Nutrient Management 
Plans.   However, in practice, no one is ensuring that these practice standards and 
plan elements are, in fact, enforced.   No one is ensuring that CAFO CNMP plans
actually conform to practice requirements.....the preparer of such CNMP plans
issues a certification and no one, in practice, will ever check their work and no one 
will ever determine whether the CAFO operator is following all elements of the plan.

The public cannot presently get access to any of these documents unless MDEQ has
requested that they be submitted and there is no process by which the public can 
force the issue of disclosure.   This entire method of handling this issue has been 
determined to violate the Clean Water Act in the Waterkeeper decision in the second 

No one ever checks to see whether CAFO operators
have not applied excessively on fields or cheated on CNMPs by overapplying to 
close in fields but claiming to have adequate lands by having distant fields they never 
get to.   No one in MDEQ ever goes out to figure out if waste phosphorus has been applied in 
excess of crop removal rates on fields with a soil test greater than 150 lbs/acre.  There
are no requirements and no one ever figures out whether CAFO land application areas
have phosphorus effluents at aqueous concentrations that cause algae formation.   No one 
is out there from MDEQ enforcing CAFO site application field erosion control and cover 
crop requirements.   

There are no annual reporting and accountability mechanisms built into the CAFO 
general permit requirements which requires this kind of compliance assurance.   Nothing
in the annual report requirement ensures that the operator must account for what 
was actually done with land application as compared to what was planned.   There is 
no practical reporting and enforceability that is ensured on all best management practices
for CAFO waste land application.

There does not appear to be a uniform statewide commitment for CAFO enforcement 
across all of the MDEQ districts.   Despite evidence of serious problems in northern 
Clinton County, for example, the MDEQ Lansing district seems loathe to enforce 
against field runoff violations.

In another state, New York, where I have some experience, there is a considerably 
greater amount of coordination between the environmental agency permit requirements
and Natural Resource Conservation Service practice standard requirements.   For example, 
there is a gateway NRCS requirement, NY-312-Waste Management System, which the NY general permit explicitly 
requires and which, in turn, requires compliance with all other best management 
practices contained in other NRCS requirements.   If a CAFO operator does not 
comply with field erosion control requirements, the NY environmental agency can 
enforce for failure to carry out the required best management practices.   There
is nothing like this in place in Michigan.   And like Michigan, New York also 
falls down on the consistent enforcement effort as I am presently finding.

>Exactly. Why don't they just measure the e-coli concentrations and flows at the dairy outflow and in the drain just upstream of that point, over time? This is a technical question, not grounds for a big he-said, she-said debate.
>--Rane L Curl

Rane, the problem is that there will be no "dairy outflow" from 
many CAFO production areas as these must be managed for 
no discharge conditions except for precipitation exceeding 
a 25 year 24 hour storm event.   

Some production areas may attempt to use grass filter 
strips for controlling effluents from open barnyards and 
silage leachate.  However, such filter strips may not 
properly work depending on how well they are designed, 
the time of the year, whether they are subjected to 
pulse flows that cannot be handled, whether soils in 
the strip are phosphorus saturated, whether sheet flow 
is maintained, etc.   In practice, filter strips used for 
this purpose are uncontrolled groundwater effluent 
discharge sources.

Michigan DEQ has a general permit that requires that 
nutrient management plans identify the location of tile 
inlets, risers and field tile outlets for land application.  However, this  
information is not generally available to either MDEQ
or the public.   There is no requirement to list the 
outfalls and their GIS coordinates in summary materials
that are submitted.   MDEQ can get the plan information 
if it requests it, but since there is no GIS coordinates any 
inspectors must go through time-consuming efforts to 
physically locate such cafo land application effluent outfalls.

CAFO managers must "monitor" their tile effluents during 
waste applications, but this is limited to visual inspection 
and no analytical work is required.   As a result, a CAFO 
land application operation may discharge significant quantities of 
pathogens, nutrients and other pollutants through field tiles and nothing in the 
Michigan CAFO general permit requires this fact to be 
discovered by either the CAFO operator or anyone else.   In practice, 
unless a CAFO operator sees black dairy wastewater coming 
out of land application field tiles, there is no obligation to 
report such a discharge.   There is no requirement that any of these
effluents be monitored by analytical methods at all.

In practice, there is no systematic method by which CAFO operators
must show that they have complied with best management practices
for CAFO land application areas and that the actually effluents from 
land application areas will not jeopardize attainment and maintenance of 
both surface and groundwater quality requirements.

Alex Sagady

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