Court considers dairy manure waste if not handled properly
Live from IPPE: Consultant tells egg producers that recent federal court ruling, if upheld on appeal, shouldn’t impact a well-managed manure storage and application programs.
A large dairy in Washington State, Cow Palace Dairy, was found to have polluted ground water by overapplying manure to soil, according to a January 2015 ruling by Judge Thomas Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. The case is now scheduled to go to trial in March to decide the extent of the contamination and the clean-up. This is the first time the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which governs the disposal of solid and hazardous waste, has been applied to animal waste from a farm.
Thomas Hebert, environmental consultant, the Bayard Group, told the audience at the United Egg Producer’s board meeting, held in conjunction with the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE), in Atlanta, Georgia, that animal manure is exempt from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act when it is used as a fertilizer. He said, “The Federal court in Washington State found that three dairies were knowingly overapplying to fields simply to dispose of the manure.” The judge found that manure that is disposed of as a waste on land rather than utilized as a fertilizer based on agronomic needs is a solid waste and is subject to enforcement. So, if manure is disposed of as a “waste,” the court said that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act applies, according to Hebert.
“So, a well-managed manure storage facility would not be found to be a problem,” Hebert said. “It is not clear how they will handle liability of the seller of a waste (manure) to a third-party who mishandles. He explained that the seller of manure is not responsible for the action of a third-party purchaser of manure under the Clean Water Act, but that it is not clear what the responsibility of the seller would be under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.