Thanks in part to a lawsuit from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance, the EPA has agreed to increase its oversight of manure discharges from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)*. The EPA estimates that CAFOs in the U.S.generate three times more bodily waste than humans do, yet CAFOs have virtually no waste treatment facilities. The lawsuit was brought in response to an EPA rule** that allowed CAFOs to make their own determination as to whether they were leaking manure into waterways that were covered by the Clean Water Act. Most didn't volunteer to be regulated, of course, so regulators had no idea how many CAFOs were operating in their regions. To prepare for the rulemaking specified in the settlement, the EPA will study CAFO operations more closely, looking at the quantity of animals at facilities, how waste is handled, and other relevant items. The EPA will propose its regulation by May 25, 2011 and finalize it by May 25, 2012. (AP in the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times Green blog, and an NRDC press release)
* The EPA defines large CAFOs as having more than any of these: 700 dairy cows; 1,000 cattle; 2,500 swine (> 55 lb.) or 10,000 swine (< 55 lb.); 55,000 turkeys; between 30,000 and 125,000 chickens, depending on how the waste is handled (PDF).