What to Expect from an Illinois EPA Livestock Facility Inspection

Why is the Illinois EPA visiting my facility?

Inspections of livestock management facilities are scheduled for several reasons, including the following:

  • Investigation of a complaint of water pollution or air pollution
  • Follow-up visits at facilities that have had previous problems
  • Investigations of facilities in a particular watershed or other geographical area
  • Visits to facilities subject to significant public interest, due to size or location
  • Visits to obtain information for permit purposes
  • Investigations of possible problems observed by Illinois EPA staff

Field staff will discuss the reasons and purposes for the visit with the facility operator at the time of the visit.

What authority does the Illinois EPA have for inspections?

State law and regulations give the Illinois EPA authority to inspect livestock management facilities and livestock waste handling facilities. Field staff will attempt to locate a facility representative upon arriving at a site. In some situations, such as investigation of a fish kill or other emergency, field staff may need to observe unattended waste handling facilities. In general, though, inspections of unattended facilities are limited to areas visible from public roads and the facility driveway. Staff may also leave a business card or note with a request that a facility representative call the Illinois EPA to schedule a follow up visit.

Illinois Environmental Protection Act (415 ILCS 5/4)

Section 4(b): The Agency shall have the duty to collect and disseminate such information, acquire such technical data, and conduct such experiments as may be required to carry out the purposes of this Act, including ascertainment of the quantity and nature of discharges from any contaminant source and data on those sources….

Section 4(c): The Agency shall have authority to conduct a program of continuing surveillance and of regular or periodic inspection of actual or potential contaminant…sources….

Section 4(d): In accordance with constitutional limitations, the Agency shall have authority to enter at all reasonable times upon any private or public property for the purpose of...(i) inspecting and investigating to ascertain possible violations of the Act or of regulations thereunder, or of permits or terms or conditions thereof....

35 Illinois Administrative Code 501.406

a) The Agency shall have the authority to enter at all reasonable times upon any private or public property for the purpose of inspecting and investigating to ascertain possible violations of the Act or regulations thereunder, in accordance with constitutional limitations....

b) The activities of inspecting and investigating include:

1) Having access to and the right to copy any records required to be kept under the terms of the permit; and
2) Having access to, sampling and monitoring any discharge of pollutants to ground and surface waters.

What happens during an inspection?

Upon arrival at a livestock facility, field staff will discuss biosecurity requirements with a facility representative. Illinois EPA staff is required to comply with reasonable biosecurity practices at the request of the operator. Field staff will also discuss the reason for the visit, and a proposed plan for the inspection.

During the visit, Illinois EPA staff will observe and discuss the size and type of livestock at the facility and the areas where livestock are housed. In most cases, field staff will not need to enter any area where livestock are confined or housed, and they will not do so without the authorization of the owner or operator. The majority of the inspection will focus on waste management, including storage structures, capacities, and management practices. Regulations relating to operation of the facility and management of livestock waste will be discussed with the operator. Photographs and samples may be obtained to document conditions at the facility. Also, records required by regulations or permits issued to the facility may be reviewed.

Finally, field staff will review any problems noted during the inspection with the facility representative before leaving. The discussion will usually include options for correcting the problems, and information about sources of technical assistance available to the facility.

What happens after the inspection?

When no violations are found after completion of the inspection, the process ends. If violations are found, one of the following actions may be initiated depending on the seriousness of the problems:

  • Noncompliance Advisory: When relatively minor problems are found, a Noncompliance Advisory letter may be sent to the facility owner or operator. This letter will document the violations of water or air pollution control regulations and laws observed during the inspection, and include recommendations for correcting the problems.
  • Violation Notice: More serious violations, or failure to correct problems noted in a Noncompliance Advisory, may result in a Violation Notice letter to the facility from Illinois EPA headquarters in Springfield. Examples of violations that may lead to this response include livestock waste releases causing water quality violations, or documented instances of air pollution. The Violation Notice contains a description of the alleged violations and actions that the Agency believes may resolve the violations, and begins a series of steps described in the Environmental Protection Act. These steps include an opportunity to meet with the Illinois EPA and to propose a Compliance Commitment Agreement to resolve the violations. If no agreement is reached, or the compliance commitment is not met, the Illinois EPA may follow up with a notice that it intends to pursue legal action. This notice provides an opportunity for a second meeting with the Agency; if the violations still remain unresolved, the matter may be referred to the Illinois Attorney General, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or a county State’s Attorney’s office for enforcement.
  • Request for Injunctive Relief: Section 43 of the Environmental Protection Act allows the Illinois EPA to request an injunction from the local circuit court to halt an activity causing or contributing to “substantial danger to the environment or to the public health of persons or to the welfare of persons where such danger is to the livelihood of such persons.” A significant release of livestock waste to surface water or a serious, ongoing air pollution episode meeting the above criteria are some of the violations that could trigger this response.

Who should I call if I have questions?

Field inspectors will be able to answer most questions about a facility inspection. If you need more information, you may contact the local Illinois EPA regional manager at the same address and phone number as the field inspector, or Tim Kluge, manager of Field Operations for the Division of Water Pollution Control in Springfield at (217) 782-3362.