Federal Court: Manure From Dairy is Solid Waste Regulated by RCRA

In a first-time ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington ruled in January that manure from a dairy is solid waste regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and that excessive spreading of manure on agricultural fields, and leachate from storage lagoons, present an imminent and substantial endangerment that can be enjoined through a citizen suit under RCRA. Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) v. Cow Palace, LLC, No. 13-CV-3016-TOR (E.D. Wash. 1/14/15).  Judge Thomas Rice granted summary judgment to CARE, holding that when excessive manure is applied to crops without regard for the crops’ actual nutritional needs, and when it is stored in leaky or defective lagoons that result in leachate contamination of groundwater, the manure is a solid waste subject to regulation under RCRA.  The Court also held that the leaching of contaminants into the environment from the manure constitutes an imminent and substantial endangerment under RCRA.

CARE has filed several lawsuits against dairies in Washington, arising from concerns about nitrate contamination in groundwater from mismanagement of animal waste. CARE contended, and the Court agreed, that when excessive manure is applied to farm fields, it becomes “discarded” under RCRA, and thus subject to regulation. Likewise, leachate from the manure is “discarded” material that is subject to regulation under RCRA. If the Court’s ruling is followed in other parts of the country, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are not covered by Clean Water Act permits could be subject to permitting requirements under RCRA, or citizen suits if they are not permitted.

For more information on RCRA’s applicability to CAFOs, or “discarded” materials from other businesses, contact Steve O’Day or Phillip Hoover.



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