Fertilizer containment measures are regulated at the federal, state, and county level in most parts of the country. County level regulation is particularly likely in highly populated areas where agriculture is still common. The clashes between homeowners and farm owners can become heated, so it’s common to find far more restrictions on fertilizer storage and control in these areas. For most farmers, in primarily agricultural zones, state and federal regulations are their main concerns. Consider how most regulations vary by state to make sure you’re checking all the right boxes while planning your fertilizer containment system.
The Environmental Protection Agency is the primary body regulating fertilizer handling at the federal level. They’re mostly concerned with discharges that threaten public bodies of water, but they’ve also set limits on tanks large enough that their release could threaten soil and groundwater health as well. EPA regulations for containment apply to tanks holding 660 gallons or more in a single unit if they’re at risk of damaging a public body of water. If a single tank has 1,100 gallons or more in it, it’ll require secondary containment regardless of its proximity to a waterway. Regulations at the federal level may come from the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act for chemical fertilizers. As of a court ruling in 2015, terms from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act may now apply to manure fertilizers as well.
Chemical and Organic Materials
Most states establish similar standards for handling both organic and chemical fertilizer materials. This is because manure and purified urea can pose similar hazards to the environment and the workers handling it. Other areas delineate the standards for various types of chemicals based on their specific risks. When storing refined chemical fertilizers, instead of general mixes in granulated form, check that you’re not subject to a different set of regulations from your state. Single form fertilizers like ammonia and sulfur can be recombined into other substances more easily than pre-mixed granules, often leading to stricter requirements on them.
Permits and Inspections
Some states only require a single inspection after the construction of a fertilizer storage facility. Others require annual inspections or a series of check-ups after an accident is reported. Most states require some kind of permitting for the structures used for fertilizer storage. Portable tanks and containers may skirt these permits and inspections, but don’t expect to use them to avoid required containment methods. These tanks don’t offer the secondary containment most states require for storing large amounts of fertilizer on a long-term basis.
Distances from Water Sources
One of the most tightly controlled figures you’ll find in state regulations for fertilizer, aside from the specific volume where regulations kick in, is the distance storage must stay from water sources. This includes underground water sources like wells and springs, especially if they’re in use. Many states start with a standard of 100 feet between fertilizer storage areas and waterways, while others set the distance at 300 feet or more. The sensitivity of the waterway, or its value to humans and livestock, also plays a role in setting the setbacks in many states.
Finally, the specific department in charge of regulating fertilizer storage can vary from state to state. The state’s Department of Agriculture (or its equivalent) is almost always involved. In addition, you may need to talk to the Department of Natural Resources, various watershed and waterway protection agencies, and even coastal agencies if you’re located near a coastline. Your nearest agricultural extension office is the best place to find out how many departments and agencies have a stay over fertilizer regulations in your state.
Don’t skip any steps when preparing to build a new fertilizer containment area. Whether you’re erecting a massive silo or just covering a small pad for manure, you may have a surprising number of permits and inspections ahead of you. If you need any specifications on liners for discussing your plans with the regulating boards in your area, contact us here at BTL Liners for help.