Water Contamination from Animal Feeding Operations

confined pigs in pens eating

Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. During a flood, animal waste and wastewater from AFOs have the potential to contribute pollutants into surface water and the environment.

What is in waste from animal feeding operations?

Animal waste (manure) from animal feeding operations can contaminate surface water when flooding of these sites occurs.

Animal waste from animal feeding operations may contain:

  • Pathogens such as E. coli
  • Hormones
  • Antibiotics
  • Chemicals such as nitrates, phosphorus, and ammonia
  • Heavy metals such as zinc and copper

What are some potential health effects from exposure to floodwater contaminated with animal waste?

  • Gastrointestinal illness (vomiting, diarrhea, fever)
  • Skin irritation (rash, inflammation, infection)
  • Respiratory illness (cough, sore throat, fever)

What can you do about it?

Can these pollutants affect drinking water systems?

Some contaminants from surface water may get into the groundwater and affect private drinking water wells and municipal water systems that use groundwater.

Who regulates animal feeding operations?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates animal feeding operations under the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination SystemExternal Program regulates point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.

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