Enforcement and Inspection

Criminal CAFO Enforcement Actions

These CAFO violations are the result of ongoing investigations by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and multiple state agencies of “persons who knowingly or negligently discharge animal wastes.” According to the alert, courts in Oregon and North Carolina recently handed down six- and seven-figure fines as well as prison sentences for convictions.

It is important to note that although this alert specifically addresses CAFO violations, however, similar violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by any size animal feeding operation are equally liable and may be criminally prosecuted. Here is a review of some of the operations cited and the violations and penalties assessed.

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A North Carolina operation was prosecuted for illegally pumping 324,000 gallons of hog manure from a lagoon into a waterway that lead to a nearby river. The company president received a six-month prison sentence followed by six months of home confinement. Monetary and other penalties assessed included $1.5 million in fines, restitution, and community service. The company was also placed on probation for  years and required to implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program, to provide annual training programs, and to treat manure in two lagoons.

In Oregon, a cattle CAFO operation was convicted on 27 state criminal water pollution violations following an enforcement effort that began with EPA notification by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and ended with joint enforcement by the EPA, ODA, and the Oregon State Police. The violations included being an unpermitted CAFO and discharging cattle wastes into nearby creeks that were both tributaries of the Columbia River. The owner was sentenced to 5 days in jail, with a $300,000 fine and 3 years of probation.

In another action located in Nebraska, a large feedlot, was cited for over-application of a mixture of manure and water to a field resulting in runoff to a federally owned waterfowl area. The criminal fine assessed was $12,000, and the company was given 3 years of probation.

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 The largest egg producer in Ohio was also prosecuted for over-application of wastes, this time egg wash- water from its washwater lagoon. The wastes were land applied mechanically overnight without oversight and resulted in runoff to local surface waters. The company was fined $150,000 and also made a $150,000 payment for community service to three charitable environmental organizations.

At the state level, an Oregon dairy and CAFO was first cited by the EPA in for CWA violations and penalized $8,000. Following that civil enforcement action, additional violations occurred, resulting in criminal prosecution by the state that included a $30,000 criminal fine and 3 years of probation.

In Iowa, a swine nursery operator admitted to pumping liquid swine manure from a confinement pit onto the ground for several hours during 2009. The manure ended up flowing across land to a nearby creek and eventually into a river causing a fish kill of more than 150, 000 fish. The operator received a $315 criminal fine and paid $10,000 in restitution.

Another enforcement action highlights how multiple companies can be prosecuted for the same violations. In Ohio, two dairies, a land-application company, and two individuals were prosecuted for multiple illegal discharges that resulted in significant fish kills. The decision to repeatedly over-apply manure on already saturated fields resulted in total fines of $10,000, more than $35,000 in restitution, and $6,000 in community services. Equally important was the enforcement requirement that both dairies publish their acceptance of responsibility for their involvement in the illegal discharges in state farm journals.

In a second similar enforcement action, another dairy and its land-application company in Ohio were prosecuted for discharges to land resulting in runoff to a nearby water body. Both companies paid $10,000 fines to the state.

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