Sierran Masthead

New CAFO Rule Designed to Protect Water

President Bush recently signed a new rule requiring the largest confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to obtain permits. The permits, called National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, will be issued to ensure that CAFOs comply with the Clean Water Act by reducing water pollution from these operations. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) will handle the administration of state permits.

In Indiana, approximately 550 CAFOs meet the size requirements for needing permits. To comply with the permits, each CAFO will write its own plan for the content, storage, and spread of manure. They will keep records of the time and place that manure is spread.

Unfortunately, these records will be kept on the CAFO property and, therefore, will not be available to the public. The CAFO operators will submit an annual report to IDEM. IDEM staff will be responsible for making inspections every few years. Unfortunately, they are understaffed with only 14 people who do inspections part time.

It will be vitally important for citizens to report any problems. IDEM staff will follow up more frequently with CAFOs reported to have problems. Some volunteers with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are learning water-testing techniques to test public waters for E.coli and other chemicals that may be coming from CAFO lagoon leaks, from overflows, or from mismanaged manure spreading.

At present, new large CAFO construction or expansion of old CAFOs must be published in a local paper. Following this, the public has 30 days to make public comments. Comments may be e-mailed to Kristin Whittington, director of agricultural relations, at

If there is a lot of public concern, citizens can request a public hearing with IDEM. IDEM staff will respond with written comments to all public comments submitted.

IDEM permit program staff will consider all comments and prepare the final permit, unless it is denied.

IDEM is in the process of drafting a general permit to cover all large CAFOs, rather than using the individual permitting process. This may make the above procedure for public comment obsolete. The CAFO Subcommittee of the Hoosier Chapter will be watching this closely. Public comment is a vital part of the democratic process, and we hope to preserve this right with respect to CAFOs.

If you are interested in working with the CAFO issue for the Hoosier Chapter, please contact Deborah Garretson, CAFO Subcommittee chair, by phone at (765) 282-9698 or by e-mail at

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[02/27/03]efp

Winter 2002-2003