Four counties support the petition. Does yours?

On August 15, over 30 Iowans attended the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting, urging the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to grant a formal rulemaking petition submitted last month by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch to strengthen the master matrix, and deny proposed factory farms until the application process is improved. The DNR is currently reviewing the petition and has until September 16 to either grant or deny it.

So far, four county boards of supervisors have sent the DNR Letters of Support for the petition: Butler, Dickinson, Polk, and Johnson counties. This is in addition to fourteen counties that have already passed separate resolutions or sent letters calling on the DNR to strengthen the master matrix and/or suspend the construction of new/expanding factory farms.

>>>> Take action! Call your county supervisors and ask them to send DNR a Letter of Support for our petition. Find contact information for your supervisors here.

“Does the Iowa farmer actually feed the world? And if they’re actually feeding the world, are they poisoning it, too, with the chemicals they put on the ground and the antibiotics they put in the feed?” said James Berge, CCI member and landowner in Kensett. “We need you to take a step in the right direction by strengthening the Master Matrix.”

Created fifteen years ago by the legislature, the master matrix has failed to live up to the promise of giving communities a greater voice in the siting of factory farms and protections from the pollution they create. It has proven so easy to pass that it has amounted to little more than a rubber stamp: Applicants only need to satisfy enough of the listed criteria to obtain 50 percent of the available points – an “F” by most standards. DNR records show that only 2.2 percent of applications have been denied.

“I’ve been drinking poisoned water, and I don’t know for how long,” said Janis Elliot, CCI member from Avon, who discovered last week that her drinking water is contaminated with nitrates at 19 parts per million (ppm) – 9 ppm over the EPA’s safe drinking water standard. “Our legislature isn’t protecting us, and you’re the Environmental Protection Commission. I don’t feel like you’re protecting me, and I don’t know what to do.”

Citizens from Worth County also attended the EPC meeting to ask the DNR to deny an influx of seven new factory farms in their community.

“Worth County is the jewel and the crown of Iowa and we don’t have many CAFOs. We’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way,” said Edith Haenel, CCI member from Northwood who lives one mile from a proposed factory farm and has epilepsy that is triggered by air pollutants emitted by factory farms. “Your job is to protect Iowans – not moneyed interests.”

The petition proposals include:

  • A higher minimum passing score, requiring applicants to earn more of the possible points to obtain a permit.
  • A one-time enrollment for counties, rather than the current burdensome requirement for counties to readopt the master matrix every year.
  • Revisions to the point structure to incentivize practices that prevent or mitigate pollution.
  • New criteria that consider factors currently unaddressed by the matrix, such as karst topography, existing water pollution impairments, and water quality monitoring.
  • Elimination of criteria that do not provide meaningful environmental or community benefits.
  • Changes to strengthen existing criteria, such as increased separation distances from schools, homes, public use areas, waterways, and wells.

Iowa has over 10,000 factory farms, and more than 3,000 of these are large enough to be subject to the matrix by counties that adopt it. These factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure each year, and its disposal has widespread impacts on Iowa’s waterways and communities. The state’s latest impaired waters list shows that 750 waterbodies – over half of those tested – are impaired. The majority of these impairments are caused by E. coli bacteria and other pollutants associated with manure. Given the statehouse’s ongoing failure to address Iowa’s water quality crisis, DNR must do the next best thing and use its existing authority to strengthen the master matrix.

>>> Call your county supervisors today and ask them to support the petition to strengthen the Master Matrix! Find contact information for your supervisors here.

 

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