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Former National Compliance Initiative: Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Ground Water

Beef cattle operation
Beef cattle operation

EPA terminated this NCI at the end of FY2018, one year ahead of the end of the current NCI cycle, and returned work in this area to EPA’s core compliance assurance program. Enforcement opportunities under this NCI were limited because of court rulings that narrowed the universe of facilities required to be permitted. In addition, most enforcement in this area is administrative, not judicial. Thus, addressing the environmental problems arising from animal waste is more appropriate as part of the core compliance assurance program. As part of the core program, EPA regions, in collaboration with authorized state programs, will continue to conduct inspections and enforcement actions to address serious violations in this area, focusing on the Strategic Plan goal of reducing water quality impairment.


Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are a subset of livestock and poultry animal feeding operations (AFOs) that meet the regulatory applicability thresholds based on the number of animals at the facility. These operations generate significant volumes of animal waste, which if improperly managed and discharged can result in environmental and human health risks. These include water quality impairment, fish kills, algal blooms, contamination of drinking water sources, and transmission of disease-causing bacteria and parasites.


The chart below shows EPA actions to identify and reduce animal waste pollution from livestock and poultry CAFO operations. For examples of EPA concluded civil judicial enforcement actions involving large CAFOs with CWA violations see the 2017 settlement with Meadowvale Dairy, LLC, the 2012 settlement with Sterling Suffolk Downs Racecourse, LLC, and the 2011 settlement with Mahard Egg Farm, Inc.

In addition to concluding 2,213 federal/federally-led inspections and 466 federal enforcement actions between FY2007 and FY2018, EPA also: (1) provided outreach and training on the potential impacts of inadequate manure management on water quality and human health; (2) worked with states to find and address illegal discharges from CAFOs; (3) provided training for state inspectors and developed and shared compliance assistance materials and biosecurity protocols; (4) partnered with EPA’s Office of Water and industry groups to make educational videos and compliance assistance information available to AFO and CAFO owners and operators; and (5) researched and developed monitoring technologies to assess water quality impacts and to identify bacteria pollution from animal wastes.

The following map and chart show progress in reducing animal waste pollution from livestock and poultry concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) operations.

Map of large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) and EPA CAFO inspections and enforcement actions

More Information

For more regulatory and non-regulatory agriculture-related information from across EPA, see EPA’s National Agriculture Center.