Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Nitrogen Conversions in the Groundwater Environmentby Marjorie E. Bedessem, P.E., Ph.D.,
George Mathes, P.E.,
Abstract: EPA's regulatory focus on concentrated animal feeding operations has historically concentrated on potential surface water impacts from direct discharges as well as nutrient-laden runoff. More recently, assessment by State agencies has broadened to include groundwater impacts. Site investigations, however, are often complicated by existing regional contamination of groundwater by nitrate-N in predominantly agricultural areas with long histories of fertilizer application and animal waste management. Producers are being asked to examine their waste management procedures through development of nutrient management plans, which are intended to lessen impacts to both surface water and groundwater. These plans primarily concentrate on best management practices for application of wastewater to croplands at agronomically-determined rates. In some cases, additional permit stipulations for managing livestock waste containment facilities to reduce surface water impacts may inadvertently increase the potential for groundwater impacts. Nitrogen conversions in the subsurface are critical to understanding sources of groundwater contamination from animal waste management. This presentation utilizes data from groundwater investigations to demonstrate interactions between waste management activities and groundwater characteristics. Environmental processes governing nitrogen speciation and environmental fate and transport will be highlighted as they relate to CAFO waste management.
Subject Headings: Groundwater management | Waste management | Agricultural wastes | Groundwater pollution | Animals | Surface water | Nitrogen
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