The US Environmental Protection Agency has declared a new campaign to regulate manure-handling facilities at the country’s 40,000 concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs).

“Wastes from large factory farms are among the greatest threats to our nation’s waters and drinking water supplies,” said the EPA.

Water pollution is a growing concern in many industrialised countries, and the EPA has decided it is time to get serious. Most CAFOs are currently governed by state regulations, but uniform federal regulations are in the pipeline. The rules will require owners of CAFOs (such as slaughter facilities and meat processors) to obtain discharge permits under federal clean water laws.

Operators of CAFOs, needless to say, are far from pleased as the new rules will cost farmers between US$850m and US$940m per year, reports Fortune Magazine. Many have already taken measures to deal with their manure problem. For example, Premium Standard Farms, the second-largest pork producer in the US, is spending US$25m to build mini-sewage treatment plants.

Poultry giant Tyson, meanwhile, is constructing a US$12m gasification plant that will treat 82,000 tons of chicken litter every year, while Perdue Farms has already made significant investments.