The Clean Water Act and Animal Agriculture
- John H. Martin *
Historically, impacts of agricultural activities on water quality, including animal production, generally were considered to be natural and uncontrollable. In the 1960s, this view began to change in response to public concern about highly visible incidents such as massive fish kills in the Midwest and shellfish bed closures on Long Island, NY, caused respectively by beef cattle feedlot runoff and the duck industry. Ultimately, these incidents led to the designation in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 of feedlots as a point source category of water pollutants subject to regulation under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program. The regulatory program that evolved is complex and confusing and is not well understood by many livestock and poultry producers. The transition from a narrow focus on pollutant discharges from confinement facilities to a broader scope has contributed to the confusing nature of this program. Included now are pollutant discharges traditionally viewed as nonpoint in character. An example of the broadening in scope of this program is a recent appellate decision holding that runoff from cropland used for disposal of manure from a facility designated as a point source also was a point source discharge of pollutants. Although this decision is consistent with the USEPA's claim of regulatory authority, it is not clear that it is consistent with the original intent of Congress. The decision, along with the general complexity and confusing nature of this regulatory program, suggests that revision is needed.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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