New Jersey Ag News
A misuse of Superfund monies (Editorial)
It’s called the Superfund. It’s the common name for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, a federal law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous waste.
The Superfund Act created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and it provides broad federal authority to clean up releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment.
The law further authorized the Environ-mental Protection Agency to identify parties responsible for contamination of sites and compel the parties to clean up the sites.
Where responsible parties cannot be found, the agency is authorized to clean up sites itself, using a special trust fund: The Superfund. In recent years there has been litigation (would you believe?) alleging that animal manure is toxic waste and should fall under the jurisdiction of the Superfund.
The issue of CERCLA/EPCRA’s applicability to the livestock industry has been discussed in Congress several times in the last decade.
And the issue also has been raised by the environmental crowd in connection with the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, raising claims that beef, dairy and poultry farms should be considered as toxic waste sites.
Now, the National Milk Producers Federation says that Congress needs to make clear that regulations designed to protect the environment against toxic waste do not ensnare dairy farmers and others who raise farm animals. Hearings are being held on Capitol Hill on legislation introduced by Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., designated as H.R. 2997, or the Superfund Commonsense Act.
It would clarify that manure is not included in the meaning of “hazardous substance” as defined by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act regulations, and also would eliminate the reporting requirement for releases associated with manure under the Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act regulation.
Testifying on behalf of the dairy industry, Walter Bradley, who works for Dairy Farmers of America, reminded committee members that concentrated animal feeding operations and their environmental releases are subject to both state and federal laws.
Bradley told the panel that “we are not seeking an exemption from the federal Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act or similar state laws including any federal or state worker protection laws. We are merely seeking clarification under CERCLA and EPCRA that animal manure does not necessitate an emergency response nor does it create a Superfund site.”
Without the clarity provided in Rep. Long’s legislation, Bradley told the House panel that “the courts are left to redefine the regulation. Animal manure has been safely used as a fertilizer and soil amendment all over the world for centuries.”
If you are of sufficient age, think back to 1980 when Congress adopted the Superfund legislation. The lawmakers surely had other concerns on their minds than cow manure and chicken litter when they provided for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites.
It is clear — it is, in the words of the proposed legislation, “common sense” — that Congress did not intend for manure in any form to be regulated as a hazardous substance.
That these fertilizers — and that has been their use for centuries — are toxic waste is a product of a contemporary mindset which wishes to sanitize our total environment, seemingly unwilling to accept the fact that cows and chickens — and all animals for that matter — don’t have flush toilets.