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DWR issues penalties for permit violations at White Oak Farms


The Division of Water Resources has issued civil penalties totaling $34,520 for violation of permit conditions related to a May 2022 waste discharge at an animal operations facility in Wayne County.

Civil penalties have been assessed to White Oak Farms, permit AWI960067, for violations including failure to maintain and operate a non-discharge system to prevent discharge to waters of the state; failure to conduct air quality monitoring; failure to demonstrate compliance with nutrient standards for phosphorous; failure to properly operate and maintain collection, treatment and storage units; and failure to manage solids, residuals or sludges.

Division of Water Resources Regional Office staff received a report and responded to a biogas digester cover rupture on May 30, 2022, at White Oak Farms. The rupture caused the release of a foam substance, generated during the digestion of organic material. Animal Feeding Operations staff made initial site visits in response to the incident on May 30, May 31, June 3 and June 7 and documented conditions present at the facility and impacts to the environment.

Based on the investigation, the estimated amount that was released from the digester during this event (May 30 to June 23) was 806,868 liquid gallons, of which 10,745 liquid gallons reached wetlands. The remaining foam was contained on-site. Water samples taken on June 3 indicated the presence of nutrient-based compounds at low levels.

The facility had been permitted since June 2020 to generate biogas in a sealed digester through co-digestion, or combining animal waste and meat byproducts, under an individual permit. The mixture of materials being fed to the digester prior to the incident was not in compliance with facility’s approved individual permit. This type of operation involving co-digestion is not permitted under the general permit for biogas digesters developed as a result of the 2021 Farm Act. The facility’s current operational permit is expired as of Oct. 31, 2022.

On July 5, DWR issued a notice of violation to the facility, updated on Sept. 2, detailing actions to be taken by the operator and the owner to address violations of its permit. More information on civil penalties assessed can be found on the DEQ website.