EPA says DNR is lax on enforcing confinement permits, regulations

EPA says DNR is lax on enforcing confinement permits, regulations

Written by Jason Noble


Iowa’s permitting program for large-scale animal agricultural operations is deficient and must make improvements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported on Thursday.

The report found that the state Department of Natural Resources in some cases has not conducted the inspections necessary to determine whether confined animal feeding operations, called CAFOs, need to be permitted and has not issued permits for some operations as required by federal law.

The department also has failed to act on permit violations and does not have adequate penalties in place for those violations.

“As a national leader in beef, swine and poultry production, with roughly 7,000 animal feeding operations, it is imperative that Iowa have an NPDES permitting, compliance and enforcement program that complies with federal law and protects the quality of Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, is the EPA program that sets minimum requirements for confinement regulations.

The DNR now has 60 days to offer a formal response outlining how it will correct the problems identified.

A spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday evening that the administration had just learned of the report and was examining the issue. DNR officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

The report is the result of a petition filed in 2007 by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project. In their petition, the groups sought to strip the DNR’s authority to regulate and enforce federal environmental laws related to livestock farms because they believed it wasn’t doing an adequate job.

Five years later, the EPA has validated those concerns, said David Goodner, an organizer for Iowa CCI.

“Basically, it says what we’ve all known for a long time: that the DNR’s enforcement of factory farms in Iowa isn’t up to par, and they need to get their act together if they want to be serious about cleaning up our water.”

The EPA report identifies eight specific steps the DNR should take to “address its program deficiencies,” including more consistent and comprehensive inspections and revisions to the way it enforces the clean-water laws on confined animal feeding operations.


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