CCI members say trend shows DNR should be issuing all factory farms Clean Water Act permits

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) are calling on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use a recently implemented rule and begin issuing Clean Water Act (CWA) permits to factory farms in Iowa. Highlighting the urgent need for these permits are recent spills, including two which occurred within hours of each other on November 12, dumping at least 3,800 gallons of untreated toxic liquid manure.

LDR Farms LTD, located near Harper and owned by Dennis Striegel, spilled 1,800 gallons of toxic liquid manure into an unnamed creek that is a tributary of the Clear Creek which is a tributary of the Skunk River.  DNR took water samples from the unnamed creek on Thursday and found high ammonia levels.  Portions of the Skunk River in Keokuk County are already heavily polluted and on Iowa’s impaired waterways list.  DNR records show that this factory farm had not been inspected since September 2, 2004.

The other factory farm, owned by Iowa Select Farms, the seventh largest pork corporation in the country, and Dwain Bankson, spilled 1,500 – 2,000 gallons of toxic liquid manure according to DNR estimates.

“The Iowa DNR isn’t issuing fines and penalties to these polluters, they’re not using the new Clean Water Act rule to issue permits to polluters. Given the track record of the DNR on this, we have to assume they are working for the polluters.” Said Larry Ginter, family farmer from Rhodes, IA. “When is the DNR actually going to do anything about Iowa’s growing water crisis?  We’re sick and tired of seeing manure spills and the DNR letting corporate factory farm industry get away with it.”

Since January 1, 2013 there have been at least 102 documented manure spills, with 21 of those manure spills reaching Iowa’s waters. 

“The only way we can start cleaning up Iowa’s waters is holding polluters accountable.” Said Ginter. “That means Clean Water Act permits for all factory farms; tough fines and penalties for polluters; and inspections that find problems and fix problems.  If the DNR won’t do it on its own, the public is going to have to make them.”

CCI members will be mobilizing members Tuesday and Wednesday to stand up for clean water. They plan to meet with Bill Stowe on Tuesday, November 18, from 11:30 – 12:30 at Iowa CCI headquarters to strategize the next steps in their campaign, as well as discussing trends they are seeing regarding manure spills across Iowa that include:

  • failing/broken equipment – problems that cannot be inspected through a DNR desk-top/Google Earth inspection
  • absentee owners – spills that seem to occur when no one is around and are not found until after the manure reaches water
  • lack of enforcement – DNR only giving fines and issuing penalties to manure spills that kill fish
  • lack of good inspections – spills occurring at sites that hadn’t had an inspection in years or had received a passing inspection shortly before the spill

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 758 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.