The public has the right to participate in Illinois’ factory farm regulatory program. These rights include:
Being aware of which factory farms plan to pollute
Factory farms that discharge animal waste must obtain a water discharge permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). This permit is the General NPDES Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The application for the NPDES permit must include a Nutrient Management Plan and be filed at least 180 days before operations begin. IEPA reviews the submitted documents and posts them on their website for a 30-day public comment period. Any citizen may comment on the permit application and request a public hearing on the proposed permit.
Commenting on Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs)
Nutrient management plans (NMPs) describe how factory farms will manage and dispose of animal waste. NMPs are submitted to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency by applicants seeking an NPDES permit. Special Condition 4 of the permit outlines what the NMP must contain. It is important that the public comment on NMPs because these plans are considered enforceable conditions that are incorporated into NPDES permits. To learn more about NMPs, see U.S. EPA’s Managing Manure Guidance.
Reporting animal waste discharges
Factory farms are not allowed to discharge waste into waterways without a NPDES permit. The few facilities that have a permit are only allowed to discharge under certain conditions. All observed or suspected discharges should be reported to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. In the event of a definite and hazardous discharge, call the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (1-800-782-7860).
Reporting erosion at factory farm construction sites
Factory farm construction projects over 1 acre in size must have a NPDES General Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Construction Site Activities. This permit is obtained from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) by submitting a Notice of Intent form at least 30 days prior to the expected start day for construction. The permit requires that the loss of soil (via erosion) from the construction site be minimized through the use of best management practices such as silt fences and sediment basins.
Citizens can monitor streams downstream from construction sites to determine whether erosion is indeed being kept in check. If there is an increase in the amount of soil in streams (measured using a turbidity tube or otherwise sampling total suspended solids), citizens can contact the IEPA and request that a stormwater inspection be done by their trained field staff. Call the Prairie Rivers Network office at 217-344-2371 to obtain more specific information about how to monitor construction sites.
Requesting information on particular factory farms
Certain documents can be requested from state agencies by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) maintain files on some factory farms. These files include letters to or from farm managers, inspection reports, annual reports, nutrient management plans, permit applications or notices of intent, and permits. To submit a FOIA:
IEPA visit www.epa.state.il.us/foia/
IDOA submit a written request to Susan Baatz either by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or hard copy:
Illinois Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 19281
Springfield, IL 62794
Filing a lawsuit
Legal tools exist to prevent new factory farms from being built or to seek retribution against those already in existence. When there is strong evidence that a factory farm is in violation of local, state, or federal regulations, citizens may file a citizen suit. If the factory farm is considered or expected to be a public nuisance, another legal tool is the filing of a nuisance suit. When a new or expanding factory farm is being built, an injunction suit can be filed to stop the construction.
The following files list people who have served or may be willing to serve as expert witnesses or legal counsel for factory farm cases. These lists are for reference purposes only and do not constitute endorsement by Prairie Rivers Network.