KDHE Proposes Changes to Kansas Livestock Regulations
KDHE has announced proposed changes to state regulation of confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's). They intend to accomplish three objectives. The first is to incorporate into state rules the new USEPA CAFO regulations issued in 2003. These changes will apply mainly to chicken, beef cattle and dairy CAFO's. The EPA rules are no stricter than rules Kansas put in place in 1998 for swine CAFO's. The second objective is to increase protections for groundwater the state defines as "sensitive groundwater." This includes the shallow Equus Beds aquifer and alluvial (along streams) aquifers elsewhere in the state. Third, KDHE is improving and officially adopting CAFO design standards that previously served as guidelines.
KDHE will hold 5 public hearings through March 31, 2005. Written comments may also be submitted until March 31. You can find the time and locations of the hearings and review the proposed rules on the web: http://www.kdhe.state.ks.us/feedlots/prop_regs.html Click on "Proposed Livestock Wastewater Regulations." Then click on "Proposed Regulations and on "Proposed Design Standards for Confined Feeding Facilities (dated May 10, 2004)."
KDHE is proposing changes that, for the most part, will not help reduce the impact of CAFOs on western Kansas. Below is a brief, preliminary analysis of the proposed changes and suggestions for comment you can make to KDHE that would make a significant difference for W. Kansas.
CAFO lagoons. The changes assume that only shallow groundwater is at significant risk from seepage from CAFO lagoons. There is little scientific basis for this conclusion. In fact, recent data from the US Geological Survey shows high levels of nitrate in groundwater of the High Plains aquifer at depths up to 200 feet, and some has been trace to animal sources. In effect it merely takes longer for nitrate to reach groundwater in western Kansas compared to the Equus Beds especially if lagoons are not properly cleaned up after they are closed and abandoned. You should ask the KDHE to extend additional protections, like improved lagoon liners and closure plans to all CAFO lagoons in Kansas no matter where they are located.
Spray field monitoring. The new rules make no significant changes to the near total reliance on shallow soil tests in wastewater application fields. Independent testing by the Kansas Department
of Agriculture is usually performed only once every five years, too infrequent to prevent buildup of nitrogen that can get below the root zone and move eventually to the water table. The new CAFO design standards, however, acknowledge for the first time that the spray field operation is an integral part of the animal waste management system. This provides an opportunity to ask for specific improvements in techniques that would reduce losses of nitrogen to groundwater and reduce runoff to surface water from farmland with significant slopes. You should request that KDHE incorporate the following into the rules:
1. testing of soils to a depth of 4 feet instead of 2 feet;
2. installation of grassed contour buffer strips and/or terraces in or along side application fields. Much of the cost of these can be reimbursed by federal and or state conservation programs.
Odor control. KDHE has proposed one significant improvement that will reduce odor from anaerobic lagoons. Operators must add volume to lagoons serving swine and dairy CAFOs to allow for better biological treatment efficiency of the lagoons. This will prevent such operators from building a lagoon only large enough to prevent overflow of wastewater. Other significant r odor reductions could be obtained if certain low cost improvements were required.
We suggest you ask KDHE to add the following rules to their Design Standards.
1. Spraying of swine or dairy wastewater high into the air with traveling gun or big gun sprayers should be banned. Alternately they could be specifically designated as part of the waste management facility subject to mandated separation distances (set backs) from neighboring residences. In other words they could be employed no closer than 4000 or 5000 feet from neighboring homes unless the homeowner grants a waiver.
2. All center pivot irrigation devices spraying wastewater from swine or dairy facilities must be fitted with low pressure drop nozzles which release the liquid close to the ground.
Finally we suggest that you ask KDHE to require each operator to verify that he has enough fresh water to water the stock, dilute the lagoon for odor control and raise the crops to the planned yield to achieve the required uptake of nutrients. We are seeing evidence of buildup of nitrogen in soils near CAFOs located in water-short areas likely due to over-application of wastewater and drought induced crop failure.