Milkhouse wastewater management presents challenges for farms. Non-sanitary wastewater, such as MHW, is considered to be "industrial waste" by MassDEP regulations. Surface disposal of wastewater can be a violation of MassDEP Ground Water Discharge Permit Program regulations at 314 CMR 5.00.
To address this concern, MDAR and MassDEP have developed a pilot program to collect data to demonstrate the efficacy of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) designed wastewater treatment areas in managing milkhouse wastewater (MHW). MHW includes wastewater that is generated through the processing of dairy products such as milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt that are customarily disposed of by Dairy Operations. For the purposes of the agreement between MDAR and MassDEP, it does not include wastewater generated as a result of bottling milk, such as rinsewater.
NRCS conservation practices for managing milkhouse wastewater include the use of vegetated treatment areas, bark mound systems and bark bed systems. The waste treatment areas include those that are described in Waste Treatment Code 629 (“NRCS Code 629”, January 2011) and Vegetated Treatment Area Code 635 (“NRCS Code 635”, June 2006) (NRCS). Vegetated treatment areas cannot be used between the months of December and March at this time. Other methods also may be approved subject to agreement.
The pilot program will evaluate the effluent characteristics of MHW and the efficacy of wastewater treatment areas that are installed and maintained in accordance with the NRCS Conservation Practice Standards. Two farms ("Pilot Farms") will be monitored as part of the pilot program. Other farms (Grantee Farms") that install wastewater treatment areas to manage milkhouse wastewater will be required to participate in the pilot program.
To participate in the program, farms must apply to MDAR for permission to install and maintain the wastewater treatment areas in accordance with all requirements and standards set forth in the appropriate NRCS Code. The pilot program, which originally started in 2011 will expire in 2017. At the end of the pilot, the results of the monitoring program will be evaluated in order to determine the extent to which discharge to wastewater treatment areas complies with existing regulatory requirements. As part of the agreement, MassDEP will extend enforcement forbearance to pilot program participants for the term of the agreement.
Farms that wish to be included in this pilot program will receive enhanced eligibility for the Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP). AEEP provides funding to agricultural operations in Massachusetts for the mitigation and/or prevention of impacts on natural resources. Any farm that is working with a federal or state agency to install a vegetated treatment areas interested in participating in the Pilot Program must complete the Milkhouse Wastewater Pilot Program Application. The application requires the farmer to install and manage the vegetated treatment area in accordance with the terms of the pilot program.
Farmers interested in discussing potential participation in the Pilot Program should contact MDAR directly: Gerard Kennedy at 617-626-1773 or firstname.lastname@example.org