Opponents of Walz Factory Farm pack DNR public hearing
December 1, 2017
On Wednesday before, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a public hearing for a stormwater construction permit for a massive Walz Energy 10,000-head cattle factory farm near Monona. The meeting standing-room-only and was packed with people objecting to the factory farm.
Under state law, the factory farm was required to obtain a stormwater permit before beginning construction – however, construction has been underway since April. Despite the facility already having one illegal discharge that washed sediment into Bloody Run Creek – a naturally producing trout stream on the “Outstanding Iowa Waters” list – DNR failed to require a permit for Walz Energy. Due to local opposition and community demand, DNR finally held a public hearing to retroactively grant the stormwater construction permit.
“We’re surprised and very concerned that one part of DNR would allow a facility of this size and type to be constructed next to one of the best trout streams in Iowa, while another part of DNR has invested millions of dollars into improving this stream,” said Steve Veysey, angler and Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association member. “We have a geologist report showing that there is porous limestone right beneath the site, and sinkholes all around it. The more I look into it, the more it doesn’t seem to be totally on the up and up!”
Walz Energy is also claiming that this massive factory farm is a “renewable energy solution” because they plan to capture the methane emissions from the manure. However, CCI and the national organization Food & Water Watch call this a false energy solution because it promotes factory farm practices and even more pollution.
“Building a massive factory farm to feed a methane digester is the farthest thing from clean energy. What’s worse, digested manure is even more prone to contaminate surface and groundwater when applied to fields than undigested manure, heightening the risks to this already vulnerable part of the state,” said Tarah Heinzen, staff attorney with Food & Water Watch.
In addition to giving Walz Energy a pass on the stormwater construction permit, the DNR is also allowing the operator to use a clay liner for the 39-million gallon manure lagoon, rather than a “formed” material, like concrete, which is required on sensitive karst topography to add more groundwater protections.
“The fact that Walz Energy isn’t building the lagoon with concrete shows a lack of concern for our drinking water. It shows the DNR’s lack of political will to stand up to this polluting industry,” said Andrea Bie Carstens, independent family farmer and CCI member from Waterville.
Because the Walz Energy factory farm threatens local businesses that use Bloody Run Creek, tourism in the area, the safety and health of nearby residents, and drinking water, Iowa CCI members are calling on DNR to uphold the agency’s mission and purpose by denying this factory farm permit.
“We’re astounded that a facility of this size could be built with no public review. We’re talking about water quality, air quality, and quality of life. What’s going to happen to the independent family farmers that will be impacted by this mega-facility? This whole process has been so under the radar that it raises too many red flags. We want DNR to deny the permit — otherwise the driftless area is at risk for future generations,” said Roger Bollman, CCI member and retired Natural Resource Manager with the Army Corps from Monona.