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IN Environmental Groups: New CAFO Rules Don't Go Far Enough

November 14, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's Water Pollution Control Board has updated rules and regulations for the kinds of large livestock farms known as CAFOs and CFOs: concentrated animal feeding operations and confined feeding operations respectively.

Indiana environmental organizations are concerned that the update doesn't go far enough to keep the massive amounts of manure produced from contaminating waterways.

Tim Maloney of the Hoosier Environmental Council urged the panel to require greater setbacks from neighbors and to prohibit the facilities altogether in certain terrains.

"We don't think that it makes sense to put them in flood plains or in karst areas, you know, close to caves and springs, where the likelihood of water contamination risk is this much greater."

Indiana has nearly 2000 large livestock farms. CAFOs - by federal definition - have over 700 dairy cows, 2500 pigs or 30,000 chickens. CFOs have over 300 dairy, 600 swine or 30,000 chickens.

With so many large livestock farms around Indiana, The Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter urged the state to require annual reports on how often and how much manure is being spread on fields as fertilizer.

Bowden Quinn with the Chapter says those reports would bring accountability when waterways are affected.

"You can only put in supposedly as much as the plants will pick up in nitrogen or phosphorus, but clearly that's not happening in all cases. This is being used as a disposal system."

The board declined to require such reports.

Despite calls from environmental organizations to increase setbacks to protect nearby watersheds, Indiana Department of Environmental Management assistant commissioner Bruce Palin says that's not necessary.

"The setbacks that we have currently in place are adequate to be protective of surface water, which is kind of the primary focus of the rules; protection of surface and groundwater quality."

Palin says updated rules require farms to monitor the amounts of phosphorus used on fields, and the changes also bring Indiana's CAFO regulations into line with those of the EPA.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN