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Grain handling and related agriculture industries

Grain handling operations include many types of activities that have a range of environmental regulations to meet. This section provides information on how to comply with some of those environmental regulations.

Air pollution regulations

There are some rules specific to some grain facilities with specific types of equipment, and others that might apply broadly to any grain handling operations or other agricultural operations as well. Review the Grain Facility fact sheet (AM-557) [PDF] to start. Then check the following requirements for more information on how they may apply.

Fugitive dust control

“Fugitive dust” is a term used to describe any particulate matter (PM) emissions released through any means other than a stack or duct of some kind. Any business creating enough dust, smoke, or fumes to be a noticeable source of air pollution must control those emissions. The following are examples of activities that would create fugitive dust:

  • large trucks transporting materials along unpaved roads;
  • unpaved parking lots;
  • piles of materials stored on site—like grain; and
  • dry materials directed to equipment not collected by another device—whether by baghouse, cyclone, wet scrubber, etc.

Any business that creates fugitive dust must do as much as possible to control those emissions and keep them from escaping into the environment. The following are a few suggestions based on the type of activity. Other best management practices recommended by industry experts are provided in the fact sheet Fugitive Dust Management (AM-556) [PDF].

  • For roads or storage piles, this may mean using water or chemicals to prevent dust plumes. Paving roads will reduce dust. Storage piles can be kept within a three-sided building to minimize emissions.
  • Mechanical collection devices (i.e. cyclones and dry filters) are effective, low cost ways to control PM emissions from processing equipment. Unfortunately, higher collection efficiency in any type of equipment can often mean higher costs. For example, a baghouse can be a very high efficiency control option but is more expensive than the others.

Grain terminal and grain storage elevators

The USEPA established a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for grain elevators constructed, modified or reconstructed after August 3, 1978, and defined as either:

  • Grain terminal elevator = any grain elevator which has a permanent storage capacity of more than 88,100 m3 (2.5 million U.S. bushels), except those located at animal food manufacturers, pet food manufacturers, cereal manufacturers, breweries, and livestock feedlots; or
  • Grain storage elevator = any grain elevator located at any wheat flour mill, wet corn mill, dry corn mill (human consumption), rice mill, or soybean oil extraction plant which has a permanent grain storage capacity of 35,200 m3 (1 million bushels).

The limits in the rule apply to the following equipment at those facilities:

  • truck unloading station;
  • truck loading station;
  • barge and ship unloading station;
  • barge and ship loading station;
  • railcar unloading station;
  • railcar loading station;
  • grain dryer; and
  • all grain handling operations.

You can review the specific requirements of the rule in 40 CFR Part 60, subpart DD [Exit DNR] or NR 440.47, Wis. Adm. Code [Exit DNR].

Prepared feeds manufacturing operations

The USEPA regulates prepared feeds manufacturing operations that are minor or area sources of federal hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), where the operations add the metal HAPs chromium (Cr) or manganese (Mn) to their product and where at least 50 percent of the annual production is animal feed. A minor, or area source of federal HAPs is one that has potential emissions of less than 10 tons per year (TPY) of any one federal HAP and less than 25 TPY of all federal HAPs combined. The list of federal HAPs can be found on EPA’s website at [Exit DNR]. The processes regulated include:

  • Mixing;
  • Storage of the meal or mash;
  • Steam conditioning;
  • Pelleting and pellet cooling; and
  • Crumbling and screening.

For more details on the rule requirements, review these materials:

Waste regulations

Unused materials from grain handling operations may be considered hazardous waste if heavy metals like chromium are present. Before disposing of any unused materials from processing, it is important to review whether the material is hazardous and then properly manage the waste going forward. Start with the Ag specific waste page and learn more about agrichemical waste management.

There are certain Ag related wastes that can be better managed by recycling or reusing them. Recycling or landfilling Ag plastic is preferred over burning. Learn more about recycling Ag plastics on the DNR's Managing agricultural plastics page. Other wastes found on a farm could be 'reused' in a fashion by composting them. Learn more on DNR's Farms and composting in Wisconsin page.

Wastewater regulations

  • Grain handling operations are often not connected to a municipal sewer system. However, if an operation is connected to a sewer, they should check with their local Wastewater Treatment plant or sewerage district about disposal of any waste liquids. They will have limits on what contaminants can be sent to the sewer and may need to pretreat your wastewater discharge before sending it to the treatment plant. Others will need to review possible discharge permits for disposal of wastewater to ground or surface water. Review the requirements starting on the DNR's Agribusiness: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations page.
  • Agricultural product storage sources may also have to comply with a storm water discharge permit, or certify that they are not a source of exposure to storm water contamination. Review the storm water runoff permits page for more details.
Last revised: Thursday September 06 2018