Iowa Citizens for
Community Improvement highlights importance of clean water lawsuit
Des Moines, IA – This
past weekend, a failed manure tank valve from a hog factory farm in
Buena Vista County released an unknown amount of manure which
resulted in dead fish, manure, and elevated ammonia levels throughout four
miles of a tributary of the North Raccoon River.
and time again factory farms are allowed to build too close to major water
sources like the Raccoon River. Pair that with zero accountability for manure
spills like this one and it’s a recipe for disaster. We need stronger laws and
regulations to mitigate this issue, otherwise it will be people downstream that
keep paying the price to clean up the mess,” said Linda Luhring, member of Iowa
CCI from Calhoun county, just south of the maure spill.
far this year, 9 factory farms have discharged liquid manure and raw feces, 4
of which reached Iowa’s 767 already impaired waterways. In the last 5 years,
over 100 manure spills have polluted Iowa’s waterways. This doesn’t take into
consideration the over 22 billion gallons of liquid manure from Iowa’s over
10,000 factory farms that is dumped untreated every year onto fields across the
state resulting in double, and sometimes triple, the amount of nitrates
being applied to farm fields.
Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch filed a clean
water lawsuit against the State of Iowa early last year after failures by the
Legislature and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds to take Iowa’s water pollution
crisis seriously. The groups’ lawsuit alleges that the state has violated
its obligation under the Public Trust Doctrine to protect the Raccoon River for
the use and benefit of all Iowans by failing to limit the pollution running off
industrial agriculture operations into the state’s waterways.
Raccoon River runs through one of the most intensely farmed areas in the United
States. If the state’s failed nutrient reduction strategy remains voluntary and
we continue allowing the factory farm industry to expand, Iowa’s water crisis
isn’t going to improve. Manure spills that have polluted our waters, like this
one, are why we are suing the state,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at
Iowa CCI. “We know that our water isn’t going to clean itself up, which is why
we need mandatory and measurable strategies to ensure the future of our water
is safe – for us and every generation after us.
Raccoon River is the source of drinking water for some 500,000 Iowans.
Des Moines Water Works, the largest water utility in Iowa, has one of the
largest and most expensive nitrate removal systems in the world. The utility’s
struggle to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines metro residents was
documented in its 2015 lawsuit against upstream counties alleging that their
failure to regulate tile drains led to excessive amounts of dangerous nitrates
in the utility’s Raccoon River source water.
bill to establish a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms was introduced
in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives during the 2019-2020
Legislative Sessions. Despite growing concern from citizens and an increasing
number of legislative sponsors, leadership in the Iowa General Assembly refused
to allow the bill to even be debated in subcommittee.
lawsuit is a response to Iowa’s failed leadership,
which has allowed the agribusiness industry to degrade Iowa’s waterways,
leaving citizens with the burden of pollution and the cost of cleanup
efforts. The suit seeks actionable, mandatory solutions that will restore
the Racoon River and make it safe for people to recreate in and for those who
rely on it for drinking water.
The case is currently pending an interlocutory appeal granted by
the Iowa Supreme Court. The appeal will likely be heard by the Iowa Supreme
Court coming up in the fall of 2020.