The Richmond Circuit Court judge who heard the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) vs. Virginia lawsuit earlier this month has ruled against CBF’s plea to keep livestock out of state streams and rivers. The decision allows large livestock farmers, particularly cattle farmers, to give animals unfettered access to Chesapeake Bay tributaries. Virginia has pledged to institute Best Management Practices (BMPs), including the use of stream buffers and fences on farmlands, to reduce nutrient and sediment loads to the Bay. This ruling, however, impedes the institution of such practices, and threatens water quality in the watershed.
CBF sued the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board over the passing of the Virginia Pollution Abatement Permit- a permit that regulates animal waste management for animal feeding operations. The permit fails to address the need for large livestock farms (i.e. 200-300 cattle) to put into place stream buffers and fencing that would keep livestock out of streams and rivers on these farms. (Please see this post from July 1). Without buffers and fencing, livestock can deposit waste directly into waters, and can erode stream banks, putting excess sediment into the watershed.
The lawsuit, heard on July 9, was dismissed by Judge C.N. Jenkins. While CBF argues that free-roaming livestock can “apply” their waste directly to streams, the judge believes that application of manure can only refer to the spreading of waste by livestock farmers.