Reporting Requirements for Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Waste on Farms

Dr. Maurice L. Eastridge, Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides the oversight for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) which require facilities to report releases of hazardous substances that are equal to or greater than their reportable quantities within any 24-hour period. Following a hazardous substance reportable release, a facility owner or operator must notify federal authorities under CERCLA and state and local authorities under EPCRA. On December 18, 2008, EPA published a final rule that exempted most farms from certain release reporting requirements in CERCLA and EPCRA, specifically exempting farms releasing hazardous substances from animal waste to the air above threshold levels from reporting under CERCLA. For EPCRA reporting, the rule exempted reporting of such releases if the farm had fewer animals than a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). Thus, all farms were relieved from reporting hazardous substance air releases from animal waste under CERCLA, and only large CAFO were subject to EPCRA reporting. On April 11, 2017, the US Court of Appeals struck down the final rule, eliminating the reporting exemptions for farms. EPA sought additional time from the Court to delay the effective date so that EPA could develop guidance materials to help farmers understand their reporting obligations. Once the mandate was issued, farms were expected to submit an initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center for qualifying releases that occur within a 24-hour period and this initially became effective on November 15, 2017. The EPA requested from the Court a further delay in the mandate to further prepare guidance documents, and then on November 22, 2017, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals granted EPA’s motion to further stay the mandate until January 22, 2018.

The EPA specifically identifies ammonia and hydrogen sulfide as two hazardous substances commonly associated with animal wastes that will require emissions reporting, with each substance having a reportable quantity of 100 lb. If a farm releases 100 lb or more of either substance to the air within a 24-hour period, the owner or operator must notify the National Response Center. So at this point, the livestock industry needs to remain aware of these potentially new air emissions reporting requirements and expect to receive further directives in January 2018 about such requirements. Additional information from EPA about these issues is available at: