Some Preliminary Steps Toward Regulating Nonpoint Source Pollution

David Cassuto

At long last, EPA is taking steps (or beginning to take them) toward addressing nonpoint source pollution of the nation’s waters.  Nonpoint sources are pretty much all those pollution sources that cannot be traced to the end of a pipe.  The Clean Water Act is far less concerned with nonpoint sources than with point sources, a historical exclusion that has much to do with the fact that when the Clean Water Act was enacted, point sources were low-hanging fruit from a regulatory perspective, and were also the primary polluter of the nation’s waters.  The CWA has done a great deal to decrease point source pollution and the nation’s waters fare much the better for it.  However, over the last 4 decades, nonpoint source pollution has greatly increased in the absence of meaningful regulatory oversight.              Continue reading

EPA Region 2 — Taking It To the CAFOs

David Cassuto

The news release speaks for itself:

Region 2 Issues a Class II Administrative Complaint to a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation for Illegal Discharges and Numerous Permit Violations On July 15, 2010, Region 2 issued an Administrative Complaint against Wilkins Dairy Farm, LLC (“Respondent”) for several violations of the Clean Water Act and the regulations governing the operation of concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”).  The Respondent owns and operates a CAFO that confines approximately 287 mature dairy cows and 125 heifers and heifer calves.  On April 20, 2010, EPA conducted a Compliance Evaluation Inspection of the facility, and observed numerous violations of the Clean Water Act and its Continue reading

U of Maryland Clinic Wins Important Procedural Victory in Lawsuit Against Perdue

David Cassuto

A while back, I blogged on the attempt by members of the Maryland legislature to strip funding for the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic because of the clinic’s lawsuit (representing numerous plaintiffs) against Perdue and some local chicken producers.  The suit arose from the chicken operation’s  runoff  (allegedly) befouling the Chesapeake Bay.  Perdue spun the suit as an assault against family farming.  Members of the legislature flew into a tizzy and excoriated the clinic for helping its clients pursue their rights under the Clean Water Act.   Thankfully, rational minds prevailed and the threat to kill the clinic’s funding was itself killedContinue reading

Come 2011, Some More Regulation for CAFOs

David Cassuto

From the Correcting Inane Regulations Desk:

One could say that EPA has regulated CAFOs under the Clean Water Act for years.  Big Ag operations are required to obtain NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits for their discharges and consequently, the Agency has monitored such discharges and protected the public from the environmental hazards these operations create.  Of course, if one said all that, one would be wrong

That´s how the story might read if we lived in a rational world.  Instead, Industrial Ag operations can claim — without having to provide verification — that its facilities do not discharge into the waters of the U.S.  Consequently, many CAFOs do not obtain permits, which means their discharges are not regulated.    Continue reading

Ocean Acidification and the Clean Water Act

David Cassuto

Great post over at Daily Kos about some tentative steps by EPA to regulate greenhouse gases using the Clean Water Act.  Oceans absorb roughly 1/4 of anthropogenic CO2.  The dissolved CO2 then forms carbonic acid, which lowers the pH of the seawater, which then causes (among other things) mass die-off of coral. 

Coral reefs are home to about 25% of marine species.  When they go, everything goes.  We don’t hear as much about ocean acidification as we should.  Maybe now we will.  In any event, if the agency goes forward with this initiative, we’ll certainly be hearing plenty of caterwauling from the deniers.

Stay tuned.

EPA Takes on a CAFO and Wins

David Cassuto

From the email — some good news from the good people at EPA Region 2.  What I like about this is that EPA is inspecting CAFOS and that it is (at least sometimes) able to use the Clean Water Act as an enforcement mechanism.

Administrative Settlement Reached with Large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

On March 10, 2010, Region 2 issued a final order finalizing a settlement
with Berkshire Valley Dairy, LLC, for its violations of the Clean Water
Act and the regulations governing the operation of large concentrated
animal feeding operations.  The Respondent is a dairy farm that confines
approximately 1000 mature dairy cows and 300 heifers and heifer calves.
On April 21, 2009, and again on May 7, 2009, EPA conducted Compliance
Evaluation Inspections of the facility and observed numerous violations
of the CWA and its implementing regulations, including the discharge of
manure to a tributary of Roeliff Jansen Kill and numerous failures to
adequately document and implement a comprehensive nutrient management plan, best management practices, inspections, and proper operations and maintenance of the facility.  On June 29, 2009, EPA issued an Administrative Order directing the Respondent to correct its violations, and on January 12, 2010, EPA issued an administrative Complaint, proposing to assess a penalty of $12,000. 

Under the March 10, 2010 settlement, the Respondent will pay a penalty of $8,100.

Indian Point Violates the Clean Water Act

David Cassuto

From the Finally Smelling the Decaf Desk: NY State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has ruled that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (located just north of NYC) violates the Clean Water Act.  The plant’s cooling technology, which has been obsolete for decades, kills so many fish and contaminates so much water that it cannot be relicensed without a substantial retrofit.  Switching the plant over to modern cooling methods will cost over $1 billion and will require a significant shutdown. 

The plant currently uses “once-through technology.”  This means that it takes in 2.5 billion gallons of water per day– more than twice the average daily consumption of New York City — and turns it into steam, which then cools the reactors.  The hot water is then pumped back into the river.   Continue reading