The state of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection exempted concentrated animal feeding operations -- large dairies and feedlots -- from obtaining discharge permits for their polluted runoff. These CAFOs contaminated Florida's waterways with huge amounts of animal wastes, which the permitting program is designed to limit.
Earthjustice, representing several conservation groups, filed suit in May 2001, after these organizations spent years unsuccessfully trying to persuade Florida DEP to enforce water pollution laws that prohibit dairies from dumping untreated animal waste into surface and groundwater.
In March 2004, the Florida Circuit Court ruled that these exemptions were illegal loopholes, and that the DEP was required to protect water quality from these polluting dairy and feedlot operations. The DEP appealed the ruling, and in March 2005, 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, affirmed the decision made by the Leon County, Florida, Circuit Court.
The ruling requires DEP to comply with federal clean water laws and issue water discharge permits for dairy operations.