Improvements Sought In Permit Renewal For Hog Feedlot Operation

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Improvements Sought In Permit Renewal For Hog Feedlot Operation  Posted: May 31, 2011

May 25, 2011

Ms. Sandy Gruzesky, Director
Division of Water
200 Fair Oaks Lane
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

By email

Todd Byassee Hog Farm KNDOP Draft Permit Renewal
KNDOP 07014042
AI No. 43167
Carlisle County

Dear Director:

These comments are submitted on behalf of the membership of the Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., regarding the proposed reissuance of an Agricultural No Discharge Operational Permit to the above-referenced industrial hog operation.

For the reasons stated below, KRC respectfully requests that the draft permit be withdrawn and that, following submittal of additional information necessary to demonstrate compliance with 401 KAR 5:005, the agency reevaluate the compliance of the existing operation with the requirements of that regulation prior to determining whether and under what conditions to renew the existing KNDOP.

After review of the application, the revised nutrient management plan (NMP) and the draft permit, KRC offers these specific comments:

1. The Cabinet should conduct appropriate inquiry into the relationship, if any, between the applicant and any corporate integrator or other entity, in order to determine whether the appropriate signatory or signatories are included in the application.

401 KAR 5:005 applies ?to an owner and an operator of a sewage system”, 401 KAR 5:005 1(1), and requires that the application for construction and operation of a facility be signed by “the responsible corporate officer or the person having primary responsibility for the overall operation of the facility. As part of the Cabinet review, a determination should be made after appropriate inquiry as to whether the appropriate parties have signed the application and are signatories bound by the terms and conditions of any issued authorizations or permits. Inasmuch as the Cabinet is aware of other instances in which industrial-scale confined hog operations are controlled through contracts with corporate integrators, the Cabinet should inquire as to any contract between the applicant and any corporate integrator, and require a copy of, and review the terms and conditions of the contracts between the corporate integrator / owners of the swine and the permit applicants, since to the extent that the integrators/owners exercise significant operational and managerial control over aspects of these operations that affect the composition, storage, and disposition of the waste as well as the management of the waste collection and distribution system (as is typically the case in the industry), then those entities are to be considered “operators” and persons with “primary overall responsibility for the overall operation of the facility” and must be signatories and permittees jointly liable under the 401 KAR 5:005 permit.

As a real party in interest, and the party who typically dictates many (if not all) of the material terms and conditions of the construction and operation of the facility, including the feed and other inputs and manner of management of the animals and wastes, the corporate integrator and owner of the animals, if such is the relationship here, should be made joint permittee and bear joint responsibility for environmental compliance under all permits issued by the Cabinet.

The imposition of responsibility for environmental compliance on the party contracting with the local producer is not without precedent, and is particularly appropriate in cases where the input and output decisions are largely dictated by the corporations and their integrators. The responsibility for environmental compliance rests, under principles of agency law, jointly with the corporate owners and integrators, and the permit should prohibit as a matter of public policy the enforcement of any contract clause which attempts to shift that responsibility solely back to the farmer.

2. Up and downstream sampling should be required in order to determine compliance with the “no discharge” requirements of the permit.

Absent background up and downstream sampling for constituents known to be in the land-applied manure, the Cabinet will be unable to determine whether the land-applied manure is being incorporated into the land or is running off and creating a discharge of pollutants. Appropriate baseline and periodic monitoring should be required to assure that the activity is “no discharge” in fact.

3. The nutrient management plan should be revised.

The draft permit does not identify what nutrient management plan is to be followed – the initial submittal or the two revisions of the submittal. This should be clarified.

Additionally, the NMP should be reviewed to assure it contains the following:

a. Complete characterization of the waste, wastewaters and manure to assure that any land application will not exceed soil and plant uptake. Sampling of the metals, salt, nitrogen, phosphorus, and micronutrient content of the manure is necessary to match the nutrients to crops needs, and to minimize the risk of runoff of excess nutrients as pollutants. Maximum application rates must be limited to that the estimated plant available nitrogen from all sources, including past-years credits from legumes and manure, commercial fertilizers, soil organic matter, irrigation water, and nitrogen deposited from ammonia.

In order to minimize air and groundwater pollution, evaluation of partitioning of the nutrients must be included, identifying the fraction of the nutrients that will leach, volatilize, denitrify or be taken up by plants. The fate, partitioning, and transport of all constituents of concern associated with manure from concentrated swine feeding operations should be evaluated.

b. The suitability of the land for land application, including evaluation of soil and subsoil permeabilities, mapping and identification of the depth and extent of local aquifers, evaluation of vulnerability of groundwater resources, soil slope, erodability, land use of proposed disposal site and surrounding land uses, existence of water withdrawals downstream of proposed disposal site.

c. The equipment that will be used for injection, controls on the rate of injection, the specific procedures to be used to prevent releases of manure before the injector is fully engaged in the soil, the precautions that will be taken to prevent accumulations of manure in the injection zone causing anaerobic decomposition; all must be specific permit conditions.

d. Calculations based on a-c demonstrating that the rate and manner of application will not exceed crop nutrient removal rates for the land in order to prevent buildup and runoff of nutrients (particularly phosphorus) beyond suggested agronomic and environmental levels. The loading and cycling of nitrogen and phosphorus must be managed in order to assure that application rates will not result in excess available nutrients.

Limitations on application of manure or disposal of wastewaters should be established based on soil, slope and composition of wastes, to assure prevention of injection near areas of influence of sinkholes, wetlands, groundwater recharge areas, in proximity to surface waters and water wells. Reliance on nitrogen levels to determine loading rates will invariably result in overloading with phosphorus, salts and other contaminants that are less capable of volatilization and are less soluble than nitrogen. In addition to limits on application for nitrogen and phosphorus, consideration must be given to prevention of accumulations of toxic concentrations of metals. Appropriate limits, compliance with which must be documented by periodic soil tests, must be placed on individual and lifetime applications of manures, sludges and wastewaters for all potential pollutants of concern from an environmental or public health standpoint, including copper, zinc, nitrates, phosphorus, antibiotics, and enteric pathogens, roundworms, viruses and other biological contaminants of concern.

e. In order to prevent accumulation of “salts” which can result in reduced crop yields, a chemical analysis of the manure for electrical conductivity (a method of estimating content of sodium, potassium, calcium) should be conducted. Once these are known, proper application rates to prevent build-up in the soils and imbalances in sodium-potassium to calcium-magnesium from causing crop yield reductions, can be established. Where repeated land application of liquid manure occurs, the “salts” and sodium content of soil should be monitored, in addition to metals.

f. Buffer strips or berms by all ephemeral, intermittent and perennial streams should be required, the width of which are determined based on slope, area drained, vegetation and soil type.

g. Management of manure, wastes and wastewaters during months when land application is inappropriate must be addressed. Storage losses to air and through runoff, of nutrients in manures can be significant, and the permit should include specific conditions on how those wastes will be managed in order to prevent pollution.

4. In order to prevent nuisance conditions and to control transport and deposition of fine particulates associated with dust and odor emissions, the confinement buildings should be equipped to exhaust the building air through a biofilter or other air scrubbing system.

The use of an underfloor or “deep pit” manure collection system, has the effect of concentrating odors within the living environment for the animals and the workplace for those employed by the hog operation. “The source of odors from a manure pit is the volatile compounds generated during the decomposition of manure. The two principal odorous compounds are those containing sulfur (hydrogen sulfide) and those containing ammonia (nitrogen). The techniques for odor and gas control inside swine confinement barns are limited[,]” and usually involve venting the odors through the pit to the outside air.” The use of commercial chemical products introduced into the waste or feed to mask, block the sensing of odors, absorb odors or to alter the decomposition to avoid generating odors, have generally proven disappointing. Id.

Studies describing the adverse respiratory effects on swine production workers have been published in several countries, concurring that approximately 50% of the studied workers experiences one or more adverse respiratory health outcomes, including bronchitis, toxic organic dust syndrome, hyper-reactive airway disease, occupational asthma, hydrogen sulfide intoxication or chronic mucous membrane irritation. (Reynolds 1996).

The underfloor deep-pit waste system involves a high loading rate and favors minimal digestion of nutrients and production of metabolic end products (gases). With this type of system the gases/odors tend to be predominantly H2S (hydrogen sulfide) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Around manure pits, hydrogen sulfide gas can be a very serious hazard. At low concentrations, this gas is identifiable by its “rotten egg” odor, but at high concentrations, it may be undetectable by smell and can cause instant respiratory arrest and death. Several people in the Midwestern United States have been killed or critically injured by exposure to hydrogen sulfide after the agitation of liquid manure in deep pits. Noxious gases formed during storage of animal manures can pose a serious threat to the health and safety of both the worker and the animal; producing acute responses even after short period of exposure to high levels of these gases, ranging from temporary irritation to discomfort to death.

The storage of liquid manure under the building is being phased out on farms in Western Europe but is still fairly common in North America. The “most dramatic effect of any agent within livestock confinement buildings is that of the acute poisoning from hydrogen sulfide gas. For buildings with liquid manure stored under the buildings, occasional sudden exposures to high levels of hydrogen sulfide may result in fatal acute poisonings or pulmonary edema when the manure is agitated.”

Odors generated in livestock housing facilities that exit the housing can make their way to downwind neighbors. Odorous compounds tend to be carried on dust particles, and strategies to reduce odors focus primarily on housekeeping measures to reduce dust emissions, including “filtration of exhaust air as it leaves the housing facilities, filtration of odorous air prior to moving past the property line, construction of impermeable barriers to arrest particle transport, and reduction in the formation of odorous compounds within the housing environment.” Mechanical or biofiltration or use or air scrubbers can significantly reduce odorous emissions, and are recommended for “high-load” systems such as deep pits where biological processing of the waste tends to be incomplete due to an imbalance in microbial populations and a loading rate exceeding the microbial ability to utilize the waste sufficiently to prevent accumulation of odorous intermediate compounds. Id.

Since the primary cause of odor generation in the removal of manure from swine buildings is the agitation and mixing of manure, the method and frequency of removing the manure must be detailed, and carefully managed. The system should be closed, with ventilation systems that are biofiltered prior to release into the air.

Failure to require that the confinement building be equipped with biofilters or other air scrubbing or filtration system demonstrated to be effective to control dust and odor emissions from the building, could violate KRS 224.10-100 and 401 KAR 5:005 Section 24 by allowing emissions potentially to violate prohibitions on fugitive dust emissions and on emission of air toxics in 401 KAR Chapter 63. (See #5 below)

5. The Cabinet should require sampling and speciation of emissions from ventilation systems, at the point of release and at the property lines, to assure compliance with 401 KAR 63:020.

While the Cabinet has historically determined not to apply 401 KAR 63:020 to require a demonstration at the time of permit review of the nature, volume and duration of emissions from the “barns” so as to assure that those emissions will not cause an on- or off-site violation of 401 KAR 63:020, no “agricultural exemption” exists, and there is ample evidence that such emissions may violate the standards of that regulation and/or require permitting as HAPs, depending on the quantity of emissions.

The results of a two-year air monitoring study jointly sponsored by EPA and the livestock industry reveal that the air at some Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) may be unsafe, with levels of particulate matter, ammonia, or hydrogen sulfide at many sites well above federal health-based standards. The Cabinet would be remiss and in violation of 401 KAR 5:005 Section 25(7)(a) were it to fail to require such monitoring and imposition of emission limitations and such reasonably available technologies as are needed to assure the absence of nuisance or adverse effects from emissions from the ventilation of the “barns” and land application of the wastes. A review of those sampling results is attached as an appendix.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.


Tom FitzGerald
By Kentucky Resources Council on 05/31/2011 5:32 PM
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