According to the Seinfeld character George Costanza; “If you consider the other choices “manure” is actually pretty refreshing.” Seinfeld – My Boyfriend – YouTube. Well, a Washington Federal Court disagrees; meaning dairy and other livestock operations may have to re-analyze their manure management practices. In Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) v. Cow Palace, LLC, et al, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington ruled a dairy’s management of manure was governed by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Essentially, manure which is not properly managed can be considered a solid waste subject and subject to citizen suits under the RCRA.
The RCRA, designed to regulate issues of hazardous waste disposed at landfills, governs the management of solid and hazardous waste from the time the waste is generated through the time the waste is disposed. Generally, manure is excluded from the definition of solid waste if the manure is applied as a beneficial use such as fertilizer or soil conditioner. However, the Washington Court found defendants failed to properly manage the manure, thereby removing it from the exclusion.
Specifically, the Court found:
Defendants applied the manure above the agronomic rate violating their Dairy Nutrient Management Plan and over application was not a beneficial use;
Defendants’ manure lagoons leaked into the subsurface, converting the manure from a beneficial product to a discarded product;
Defendants composted manure in an unlined composting area allowing manure to leach into the ground and shallow water converting the product from a beneficial use to a discarded product; and
Defendants’ manure management resulted in contaminated groundwater beyond the dairy with nitrates above the Maximum Contaminant Level.
In sum, Defendants’ manure management constituted a open dumping of solid waste in violation of RCRA. Many environmental groups also disagree with Costanza and will certainly model future claims on the success CARE had in Washington. Livestock operations will be under an additional microscope if the Washington case withstands appeal and other federal judges fall in line.
For more information check out CALT’s article: Court Says Application of Manure To Farmland In Manner Inconsistent With Good Husbandry Agricultural Practices is Subject to Federal Regulation as Solid Waste | Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation