Today, Virginia’s State Water Control Board approved the 10-year general permit for managing waste from poultry farming operations in Virginia. This permit regulates the management of poultry manure, including when it is used as fertilizer for farm fields.
The regulatory process included discussions of reducing the pollution that reaches waterways through runoff and through air emissions, which are substantial. Nitrogen loads to the Bay from air emissions have recently surpassed nitrogen loads from power plants and vehicle emissions, according to Chesapeake Bay Program modeling.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) advocated for several provisions in the final permit, including:
- Additional requirements to track and report how and where poultry manure is moved and how it is applied as fertilizer. These requirements were included in the final permit.
- Requirements to report the use of additives to poultry waste. These poultry litter amendments reduce how much ammonia from manure piles pollutes the air and water. These requirements were not included in the final permit.
CBF Senior Scientist Joe Wood issued the following statement.
“Virginia missed an important opportunity to require reporting of poultry litter amendments—a measure that would enhance our understanding of the contribution of ammonia to nitrogen pollution loads to the Bay. Some additives to poultry manure can reduce the amount of ammonia that is released into the atmosphere and to our waters. Litter additives can also help control runoff, and it is important for the Department of Environmental Quality to track the use.
“There is clear evidence that ammonia emissions from poultry production are a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. Yet Virginia has still not considered ammonia emissions from poultry in any meaningful way. We must address ammonia emissions to protect Virginia’s waterways.
“The Board members took key steps forward in some areas. The new reporting requirements will help Virginia better track how much poultry manure is being put to good use and how much could be running off fields into creeks and rivers. This is necessary to more sustainably use poultry manure as fertilizer.”