• Sarah Everhart

The AFO General Discharge Permit- Inspecting and Recordkeeping

Updated: Jul 23

By Sarah Everhart

Person using a tractor while other farmers watch (Photo Credit Edwin Remsberg).

Recently I posted about the modified AFO General Discharge Permit and, due to the number of questions that came in about the self-inspection requirements, I have decided to address this topic again and specifically what growers need to be inspecting and recording to be in compliance with the permit. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) inspectors will look for these records during their compliance inspections of animal feeding operations (AFOs). To quickly recap, most Maryland farmers with medium or large AFOs (MAFOs and CAFOs) such as large scale poultry growers, are subject to the AFO General Discharge Permit (the “Permit”). The Permit is both a State discharge permit and a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit required by the Clean Water Act for a point source discharging pollutants into waters of the United States.


The current Permit (a modified version of permit 14AF) is the third version of the Permit in the recent years. The original general discharge permit (09AF) was issued on December 1, 2009. The 09AF permit was replaced with Permit 14AF on December 1, 2014. However, as I explained in my recent post, Permit 14AF was modified last month (effective date of the modified permit is August 1, 2016 and it will be in effect until November 30, 2019). Although this sounds like a lot of changes, the only self-inspection change was a modification of the frequency for dry animal waste storage from once every three months to weekly. This modification actually reinstated a previous requirement because under the original Permit (09AF) growers were required to inspect dry animal waste storage areas weekly. The other two changes to the Permit 14AF relate to a change to the definition of “Required Plan” and a typographical correction.


So what do growers need to do to be in compliance with the AFO General Discharge Permit? Growers need to have a current and unexpired Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) or a combination of a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) and a Conservation Plan (CP) (referred to collectively as “the Plans”). Both the CNMP or NMP/CP combination must have an implementation schedule. Growers need to keep in mind that all the provisions of the Plans are part of the AFO General Discharge Permit which means that violating any part of the Plans or allowing the Plans to lapse, is a violation of the Permit itself.

As for self-inspection and recordkeeping requirements, MDE expects growers to keep records of the following:


-Weekly inspections of liquid animal waste impoundments. The depth of the manure and process wastewater must be indicated, earthen embankment structures must be inspected for structural stability and corrections of deficiencies must be noted.


-All land application of manure, litter or process wastewater must be kept on-site. MDE suggests a loose-leaf book, but any sort of organized system, including digitally on a computer is acceptable. The records must be maintained on the farm for 5 years. The records must include the following for each day that land application occurs (records for these 5 items do not have to be kept if manure, litter, or process wastewater is not applied on that day.) (Here is an optional MDE form to keep this record):

  1. Fields where animal waste is distributed;

  2. Application method, rate, time and date;

  3. Soil conditions, including instances of ponding or runoff, saturated soil, and frozen ground or snow covered ground;

  4. Weather conditions, including precipitation and temperature at the time of the application and precipitation 24 prior to, and following application; and

  5. A record of mortality disposal including number of animals and method of disposal.

-For all AFOs with liquid application of manure, litter or process wastewater and all CAFOs that land apply their manure, litter, or process wastewater the records shall include:

  1. A weekly record of the liquid level in all impoundments (MDE form to keep this record)

  2. A record of weekly inspections of all wastewater operations, including pumps (MDE form to keep this record); and

  3. A record of daily inspections for all outdoor water lines, and those located inside buildings with grated floors (MDE form to keep this record); and

  4. Documentation of inspections conducted of the animal waste storage areas:

  5. Weekly liquid animal waste operations and

  6. Weekly for dry animal waste operations

  7. Weekly inspections of the stormwater routing structures (this includes swales, ditches, culverts, etc. that channel stormwater – keeping records of this inspection was not required under Permit 09AF)

-For all CAFOs that land apply their manure, litter, or process wastewater the following additional records must also be maintained:

  1. Test methods used to sample and analyze manure, litter, process wastewater, and soil;

  2. Results from manure, litter, process wastewater and soil sampling (MDE form to keep this record);

  3. Total amount of nitrogen and phosphorus actually applied to each field, including documentation of calculations for the total amount applied;

  4. Date(s) of the manure application equipment inspection (MDE form to keep this record); and

  5. Documentation for all manure, litter and wastewater storage structures including the following information (MDE form to keep this record):

  6. Volume for solids accumulation;

  7. Design treatment volume;

  8. Total design storage volume; and

  9. Days of storage capacity.

Growers need to make sure that they make notes of any deficiencies in any of the system requirements outlined above and the actions they take to correct the deficiencies. If any deficiencies are not corrected within 30 days, an explanation of the reason why the correction hasn’t been made should be noted.

If a grower exports all manure, litter or process wastewater (no land application), the grower must maintain these records on-site for 5 years. The records must include a notation of periods when the farm is not in operation and shall include the following for each day the farm has animals:

  1. The name and address of any recipient of transferred animal waste, including the date and the quantity of manure, litter and process wastewater transferred. The grower shall supply the recipient of the animal waste with the most recent annual nutrient analysis of the manure, litter or process wastewater (MDE form to keep this record);

  2. A record mortality disposal including number of animals and method of disposal;

  3. Test methods used to sample and analyze manure, litter, and process wastewater;

  4. Documentation for all manure, litter and wastewater storage structures including the following information:

  5. Volume for solids accumulation;

  6. Design treatment volume;

  7. Total design storage volume; and

  8. Days of storage capacity and

  9. Documentation of inspections conducted of the animal waste storage areas:

  10. Weekly liquid animal waste operations and

  11. Weekly for dry animal waste operations

  12. Weekly inspections of the stormwater routing structures

Growers should also be aware that an MDE inspection will also include issues such as holes in walls and roofs, seepage from mortality composters, poor housekeeping, manure spills, erosion, obvious pollution events, and other permit requirements.

#CAFOpermit #concentratedanimalfeedingoperation #ALEI #NPDESPermit #animalfeedingoperation #MAFO #AFO #afogeneraldischargepermit

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