EE&T  |  AwwaRF
  Home > USEPA CAFO Rule

 *Source Water Protection


The USEPA Final Rule for CAFOs became effective April 14, 2003 (USEPA, 2003a). The rule revises and clarifies the section of the Clean Water Act dealing with CAFOs and is intended to ensure that CAFOs take proper action to protect the nation's water quality (40 CFR Parts 9, 122, 123, and 412).

The Rule requires CAFOs to: (a) be permitted as a point source; (b) develop plans for storing, using, and disposing of animal wastes; and (c) to prepare annual compliance reports on waste disposal practices. The rule established a requirement for all CAFOs to apply for an NPDES permit, and to develop and implement a site-specific nutrient management plan that include appropriate best management practices to protect water quality. The explicit definitions of large, medium, and small CAFOs are shown in the table below.

The regulated operations include several types that were previously not considered CAFOs, including large facilities that discharge only as the result of a large storm event, stand-alone immature swine or heifer operations, and large "dry-litter" poultry operations (this latter requirement was subsequently successfully challenged in the 2005 Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. et al. v. USEPA case).

Summary of CAFO size thresholds for all animal sectors (USEPA, 2003a)

Sector Large Medium* Small
Cattle or cow-calf pairs 1,000 or more 300-999 Less than 300
Mature dairy cattle 700 or more 200-699 Less than 200
Veal calves 1,000 or more 300-999 Less than 300
Swine (weighing over 55 pounds) 2,500 or more 750-2,499 Less than 750
Swine (weighing less than 55 pounds) 10,000 or more 3,000-9,999 Less than 3,000
Horses 500 or more 150-499 Less than 150
Sheep or lambs 10,000 or more 3,000-9,999 Less than 3,000
Turkeys 55,000 or more 16,500-54,999 Less than 16,500
Laying hens or broilers‡ 30,000 or more 9,000-29,999 Less than 9,000
Chickens other than laying hens§ 125,000 or more 37,500-124,999 Less than 37,500
Laying hens§ 82,000 or more 25,000-81,999 Less than 25,000
Ducks§ 30,000 or more 10,000-29,999 Less than 10,000
Ducks‡ 5,000 or more 1,500-4,999 Less than 1,500

*Must also meet one of two “method of discharge” criteria to be defined as a CAFO or may be designated
†Not a CAFO by regulatory definition, buy may be designated by a CAFO on a case-by-case basis
‡Liquid manure handling systems
§Other than liquid manure handling systems

On February 6, 2006 USEPA issued a Final Rule extending certain CAFO operator compliance deadlines for the CAFO Rule in order to allow USEPA more time to comply with the Courtís decision. This Rule gives livestock operations until July 31, 2007 to develop and implement nutrient management plans and obtain NPDES permits. Under the 2003 rule, CAFOs were to obtain NPDES permits by February 13, 2006, and to develop and implement nutrient management plans to manage animal wastes by December 31, 2006.

The USEPA Administrator signed on June 19, 2006 and issued for public comment a proposed rule to revise the 2003 CAFO regulations more broadly to address the ruling of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The primary components of this proposed rule are to:

    1. Require only the owners and operators of those CAFOs that discharge or propose to discharge to seek coverage under a permit
    2. Require CAFOs seeking coverage under a permit to submit their nutrient management plan (NMP) with their application for an individual permit or notice of intent to be authorized under a general permit.
    3. Authorize permit writers, upon request by a CAFO, to establish best management, zero discharge effluent limitations when the facility demonstrates that it has designed an open containment system that will comply with the no discharge requirements †