Mahard Egg Farm, Inc. (“Mahard”), after settling claims asserted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”), will pay $1.9 Million in penalties and an estimated $3.5 Million in cleanup costs due to its violation of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). The government filed a complaint against Mahard alleging violations of the CWA and of Texas and Oklahoma law. USEPA alleged that Mahard operated several concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) in Texas and Oklahoma from which it discharged pollutants into waterways without a CWA permit.
Specifically, Mahard was accused of applying excessive quantities of manure, which contained phosphorus and nitrogen, and wastewater to its surrounding fields as part of its egg farming process. Under the CWA and Texas statutory law, manure applied at greater than “agronomic rates” is classified as a pollutant. Any rainfall could then cause the phosphorus and nitrogen to runoff into nearby waterways. Thus, in addition to violating the CWA’s CAFO permitting requirements, Mahard also violated Texas and Oklahoma’s respective safe drinking water regulations.
In addition to paying penalties and remedial cleanup costs, Mahard must bring all of its CAFOs into compliance with the CWA, Texas law, and Oklahoma law. Moreover, Mahard must satisfy specific requirements aimed at preventing future pollutant discharges. These benchmarks include conducting groundwater monitoring, constructing protective barriers to prevent pollutants from entering waterways, and managing the amount of manure applied to Mahard’s lands.
Importantly, one of USEPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives (“NEI”) until 2013 is to prevent animal waste from contaminating water sources. USEPA’s NEI will focus on large and medium sized CAFOs that discharge pollutants without permits or in violation of an existing permit.