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Confined Animal Feeding Operation

Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFOs) are agricultural production facilities where large numbers of animals (swine, poultry, cattle, etc.) are raised inside of large buildings. Some of the larger CAFOs can exceed 100,000 chickens, or over 300,000 pigs. These facilities produce large volumes of animal waste which is temporarily stored in open lagoons and then applied to crop fields as a fertilizer. In Kansas, CAFOs with more than 300 Animal Units (750 pigs) present on site must apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). These permits allow for land application of wastes, but generally prohibit discharges directly to surface water. In 1998, the Kansas Field Office received a public notice of intent to issue a NPDES permit for a 4,400 head swine operation near Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in central Kansas. Cheyenne Bottoms has been designated as a Wetland of International Importance and is the only listed critical habitat (whooping cranes) in the state. Part of the waste management plan for this operation included land application of solid wastes to parcels abutting Cheyenne Bottoms. Interestingly enough, prior to and during the Public Comment period for the permit, a moderate rainfall event had caused Cheyenne Bottoms to inundate one of these parcels, and the other was draining significant amounts of runoff directly into Cheyenne Bottoms. Had the permit been allowed as proposed, large volumes of untreated swine waste could have been discharged directly into Cheyenne Bottoms. Through our responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, the Kansas Field Office and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks provided technical assistance to KDHE and the permit applicant to avoid this potential impact. As a result, the permit applicant identified other land parcels where the waste material could be applied which do not drain into Cheyenne Bottoms, thereby eliminating the risk of pollution, while still allowing for the project to proceed.


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