If only cows just produced milk ...

If only cows produced just milk …

Discharges of animal waste into waterways must meet the requirements of the federal CAFO rule and Illinois’ state regulations. These regulations allow factory farms to apply for a NPDES permit to discharge animal waste into waterways, but only during heavy storms. In Illinois, permits must be obtained from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).

If a factory farm discharges without a permit, or discharges waste in a manner not allowed by the permit, the owner is in violation of the law and subject to enforcement action.

Common examples of discharge violations are:

  • Waste is illegally discharged from lagoons and other containment structures into waterways via ditches and underground tiles or pipes
  • Waste overflows from containment structures and spills into nearby waterways
  • Waste is spilled during transportation
  • Waste is applied on steep slopes when the ground is frozen
  • Waste is land-applied too close to (within 200 feet) or directly over a waterway
  • Waste is over-applied to the extent that it pools on the ground.
Dead fish in water polluted by animal waste (credit: Klein/ECCSCM)

Dead fish in water polluted by animal waste (credit: Klein/ECCSCM)

Citizens monitoring a stream next to a factory farm (credit: Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards)

Citizens monitoring a stream next to a factory farm (credit: Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards)

All observations of factory farm pollution in waterways should be reported. Signs of water pollution from animal waste include a coffee color, foam, bad odor, dead fish, and waste on the streambank. Water samples can also be taken and tested for pollution, using field test kits or an accredited laboratory. Good indicators of pollution include high Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), ammonia, phosphorus, and bacteria (e.g., fecal coliform, E. coli).

Citizens may report pollution using any of the following methods:

  • Call the nearest regional IEPA office
  • Call the IEPA environmental helpline 1-888-372-1996
  • File an online complaint form with the IEPA
  • If an emergency, call the Illinois Emergency Management Agency 1-800-782-7860.

When filing your initial complaint, get the name of the person you speak with so that you can call them back and get an update on the investigation. Your persistence will likely be critical to ensuring that the suspect farm is properly investigated by government staff.

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