The State of Michigan regulates both surface and groundwater. Agricultural activities that do not send water to a municipal wastewater system may need a groundwater discharge permit, such as:
Treating slaughterhouse, egg, fruit, or vegetable wash water or wastewater through a septic system
Land applying or storing in a pond, water used to clean dirt off potatoes, sugar beets, or other crops, cool fruits or vegetables, wash trucks, clean equipment or containers, or other agricultural activities
Groundwater discharge rules are complex and past Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (MDEGLE) permits have been inconsistent. Sometimes farmers have not known they needed a permit until they receive a violation for not having one. However, MDEGLE is now updating permits to make them more consistent, including writing General Permits with broader conditions so fewer farm activities need Individual Permits. Challenges include:
While allowing more farm activities to fit under a General Permit should be an improvement, many farmers may see this as an increase of regulation because past inconsistent enforcement meant they never knew they needed a permit at all.
MDEGLE cannot change or simplify the rules around groundwater discharge permits because state statute limits their rulemaking authority, but if MDEGLE gets rulemaking authority back, they may increase regulation of surface and groundwater.
Legislation to make Groundwater Quality Rules simpler or exempt more farm activities from permitting is difficult to pass, because the topic is complex and legislators who support these bills may be accused of reducing water quality protection.
While MDEGLE is updating these permits, farmers have an opportunity to weigh in on permit conditions, how the regulation is communicated, and time needed to comply with permit requirements.
Contact: Tess Van Gorder | 517-323-6711
What issues need to be addressed with the current agricultural groundwater discharge permits?
How can groundwater discharge permit conditions be streamlined to help farmers and agricultural processors comply?
Should local health departments be able to issue permits for groundwater discharge of agricultural wastewater through septic systems in addition to residential septic systems?
How can MDEGLE and Michigan Farm Bureau better communicate what agricultural activities need groundwater permits to help farmers?
MDEGLE Groundwater Discharge Program