Comment on Proposed Changes to DEQ Animal Feeding Operations General Permit Regulation

The Department of Environmental Quality is seeking comments on proposed changes to the general permit regulation for animal feeding operations. The permit will expire November 15, 2014, and DEQ is proposing changes before the permit is reissued for another 10-year period. The permit covers activities at AFOs such as dairy cattle, hog and beef cattle farms.

Any operation that confines animals for more than 45 days in a 12-month period with no ground cover during that period are affected by these regulations.  Those operations that are greater than 300 animal units must maintain coverage by a permit. In addition, those farmers wishing to utilize the manure generated by these operations for fertilizer as an “end user” should closely review these proposals.

Virginia Farm Bureau supports the renewal of the “General Permit.”  We also believe that transfers of manure to end users provides an alternative to producers with limited land application sites on their own farm.  However, the program should not be so restrictive that it makes the option useless.

Public comment period: November 18, 2013 to January 21, 2014

Four public hearings on the proposed changes have been scheduled. There will be an information session for each meeting starting at 6:30 p.m., and the public hearings will begin at 7 p.m. The dates and locations are:

December 11, 2013 (Wednesday) – DEQ Valley Regional Office, 4411 Early Road, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (540) 574-7800.

December 12, 2013 (Thursday) – DEQ Piedmont Regional Office, 4949-A Cox Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060 (804) 527-5020.

December 18, 2013 (Wednesday) – DEQ, Blue Ridge Regional Office, 7705 Timberlake Road, Lynchburg, VA 24502 (434) 582-5120.

December 19, 2013 (Thursday) – Culpeper County Library, 271 Southgate Shopping Center, Culpeper, VA 22701 (540) 825-8691.

AFOs may operate waste storage, treatment or recycling activities and may apply manure, wastewater, compost or sludges to the land. The current permit regulation requires that manure generated at an AFO is applied in accordance with a nutrient management plan approved by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Where the land application of waste is limited by reasons such as elevated phosphorus soil test levels, the further treatment and transfer of waste off the farm is becoming necessary. New technology is making the transfer and possible marketing of manure-based products off the farm more common and also is prompting the consideration of importing other wastes to supplement treatment processes. The current permit regulation does not address manure transfer, the construction and operation of alternative manure treatment and storage facilities, or the management of waste materials generated offsite to be used to feed an on-farm digester or other manure treatment technology.

The changes are being proposed to address alternative waste treatment and storage, management of materials generated offsite, and end-users of waste that is transferred off farms covered by the general permit. The proposed end-user requirements are modeled after the requirements for the transfer of poultry waste.

How to comment: DEQ accepts written comments by hand-delivery, email, fax and postal mail. All written comments must include the full name, address and telephone number of the person commenting and be received by DEQ no later than on the last day of the comment period. Verbal and written comments will be accepted at the public hearings. Comments also may be submitted through the Public Forum feature of the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall web site at  www.townhall.virginia.gov.

How a decision is made: After DEQ has reviewed the comments, the State Water Control Board will make the final decision. People who submit statements during the comment period may address the board at the meeting at which a final decision is made.

Contact information:  Anyone wishing to submit written comments may do so at the public hearing or by mail, email or fax Betsy Bowles, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, Virginia 23218, phone 804-698-4059, fax 804-698-4032 and betsy.bowles@deq.virginia.gov.

Comments may also be submitted through the Public Forum feature of the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall web site at www.townhall.virginia.gov.

Written comments must include the name and address of the commenter. In order to be considered comments must be received by DEQ by the close of the comment period.

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