The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued the Simplot Cattle Feeding Company a legal order to halt discharges from its nearly 700-acre feedlot complex near Grand View, Idaho. Simplot confines between 30,000 and 65,000 cattle year round at this feedlot facility near the Snake River in southeastern Idaho.
EPA’s order directs Simplot to immediately cease all discharge of pollutants to waters of the U.S. This action is particularly important because the Snake River has been designated as “impaired” for both bacteria and nutrients.
Today’s Order stems from Simplot's use of a constant flow stock watering system. When not used for irrigation (usually from November to March), a portion of this water is diverted to pasture, irrigation ditches, or into the Ted Trueblood Wildlife Refuge, all of which ultimately flow into the Snake River. Simplot water samples pulled from the facility’s discharge were shown to contain 1600 colonies of fecal bacteria per 100 ml of sample.
Simplot is covered under an NPDES CAFO permit, and by discharging 1500 gallons per minute from the production area, they are violating their permit. While EPA recognizes that many producers use similar systems at their facilities, CAFO regulations apply to feedlots and dairies. They do not typically apply to rangeland. If watering system flows are re-used and/or do not leave the facility, they are not considered a discharge.
According to Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, when pollution is discharged to surface waters from watering systems, EPA will take appropriate action.
“Simplot’s watering system adds fecal bacteria to the Snake River,” said EPA’s Kowalski. “It discharges a tremendous volume of contaminated water to a river already impaired by bacteria and nutrient pollution. By re-routing overflows or storing water for future use, producers can take care of their livestock and protect Idaho water quality.”
Pollutants commonly associated with animal waste or manure often includes nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, pathogens and sediments. These pollutants can choke rivers and streams with algae, kill fish by reducing oxygen in the water and transmit waterborne diseases.
To comply with the Order, Simplot must cease all discharges to the Snake River and its tributaries immediately.
For more information about animal feeding operations, visit http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/afo/cafofinalrule.cfm