All About NDEE: Livestock Inspections
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s (NDEE) Livestock Compliance Section sees inspections as an avenue to help livestock producers proactively protect waters of the state.
NDEE administers two types of permits for livestock waste control facilities in Nebraska – the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), and the state Construction and Operating Permit.
The agency inspects livestock facilities to ensure they are adhering to their permits and operating in ways that are protective of the environment. It is also an opportunity to develop working relationships with producers so they can come to NDEE before issues arise.
NDEE’s Livestock Compliance Section conducts regular inspections of livestock facilities. Facilities are inspected every 18-24 months, if not more often, depending on the operation. This inspection process starts at the office, where inspectors review historic files from the facility. This includes reviewing previous inspection records. Facilities with NPDES permits are required to submit annual reports, which provide data about how much manure was generated by the facility and what was applied to agricultural land. NDEE reviews these annual reports prior to an inspection, when applicable.
The inspector also reviews documents to ensure the facility is up to date on permit renewals and land application training and to confirm if the facility has groundwater monitoring in place. This document review helps provide the inspector with information about the facility before the on-site visit.
Once at the site, the inspector reviews additional records from the livestock facility. Livestock producers with holding ponds or lagoons keep weekly records of water levels and document water levels after rain events and before and after land application. Knowing these levels helps the producer make management decisions on when to pump the lagoon for land application. It’s important producers keep track of these water levels so the containment structure stays below the start pump level – the required capacity to hold the runoff during a 25-year, 24-hour rain event – to protect nearby surface water. Producers are required to keep these records for five years.
Following the records review, NDEE will visually inspect the producer’s holding pond or lagoon to ensure it is in good physical condition and does not require repairs. The inspector will also look at any livestock waste control structure on site to ensure everything is working as designed. If prior inspection reports indicate there were violations, the inspector will look to ensure they were corrected.
If the facility is required to conduct groundwater monitoring, inspectors review its groundwater monitoring reports in the office before their on-site visit to confirm sampling is being done and the results were submitted to the Department within the required time frame. The reports will also indicate if the well has been damaged or if there are other issues. While on site, the inspector will look at monitoring wells to confirm they are locked and not damaged.
After the inspection, the inspector will fill out an exit summary form, which documents any issues found on site. The producer and the inspector will discuss these issues in person, and the producer will sign the exit summary and receive a copy of the document. The inspector will return to the office to finalize an inspection report. If there were any violations, the producer will receive a Letter of Non-Compliance (LNC) in the mail, which begins the Return to Compliance Process.
Inspections are one tool NDEE uses to make sure facilities follow the requirements of their permit and gives the agency the opportunity to proactively work with livestock producers.