Florida Waters Polluted by Dairy Farms & Feedlots

Conservation groups defend court ruling aimed at plugging illegal loopholes


David Guest, 850-681-0031

Earthjustice went back to court today to defend a court ruling requiring the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protect water quality from polluted runoff from large dairy farms and feedlots.

In March, the Florida Circuit Court ruled that the State of Florida had created illegal loopholes allowing large dairies and feedlots (“concentrated animal feeding operations” or CAFOs) to avoid the Clean Water Act’s requirement that they obtain discharge permits for their polluted runoff. The state DEP is appealing that ruling; Earthjustice, on behalf of the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County, Save our Suwannee, ManaSota-88, and Linda Young, will work to defend the ruling.

“The DEP is allowing concentrated animal feeding operations to contaminate Florida’s waters with huge amounts of animal wastes,” said David Guest, the Earthjustice attorney who is representing the conservation groups along with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The switch from permits and compliance reports to voluntary self regulation is not the answer.”

The state of Florida has been approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to implement the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit program, which requires DEP to manage animal waste discharges by certain large cattle operations through a permitting system. The permits are designed to limit the amount of pollution that is discharged into streams and waterbodies. Unfortunately, DEP has created illegal loopholes in its administration of the program that allow CAFOs to avoid these permit requirements.

Under the March circuit court ruling, DEP must end its illegal practices, including exempting concentrated dairy cattle operations from permits and allowing the farmers to engage in voluntary self-regulation.

The case, State of Florida, Dept. of Environmental Protection v. Save Our Suwannee, Inc. et al, [DCA D04-1258], is before the District Court of Appeal for the First District in Florida.



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