Virginia has various deficiencies in its Combined Animal Feeding Opertation (CAFO) permitting program under the federal Clean Water Act. However, the state of Virginia has refused to improve their regulations in order to sufficiently protect our waters from CAFO manure runoff. These large livestock enterprises often have thousands of chickens and hogs packed into what are called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). CAFOs produce hundreds of millions of pounds of manure that contribute significant amounts of nutrient runoff to the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. In turn, the manure runoff causes dangerous algae blooms and creates dead zones in which aquatic life cannot survive.
Our Position: The federal Clean Water Act requires that states issue water pollution control permits to all CAFOs that discharge pollution, but Virginia has not met this requirement. Unlike Maryland, which has issued CAFO permits to most of its factory farms, Virginia has yet to issue a single federal permit. Additionally, the proposed permitting program would allow the state to issue CAFO permits without state regulators or the public being able to review the full federally required nutrient management plans.
Status Update: In 2014, our counsel the Environmental Integrity Project filed a petition to remove Virginia’s authority to issue and enforce these CAFO permits. We are awaiting a response from the EPA.