Iowa DNR passes the buck again on clean water

In May, Iowa’s factory farm rules were opened up for a 5-year review. This was the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) and Environmental Protection Commission’s (EPC) opportunity to close loopholes within their factory farm permitting and enforcement authority.

DNR received 1,600 comments on the factory farm rules.  Roughly 90% of the comments supported strengthening the rules, but instead of listening to the people, the DNR continued business-as-usual and listened to the industry.

TAKE ACTION!  EPC to vote on DNR’s proposed rule changes on Tuesday, October 18. Click here.

This is our last chance to weigh in before the vote and demand DNR and EPC close the LLC loophole, hold factory farm corporations accountable, and protect our water. Join us at the CCI Office at 9 am Tuesday, October 18 to testify at the EPC meeting.

REGISTER NOW.

Iowans Demand Stronger Rules

The Iowa DNR says over and over again that “their hands are tied” and that improvements to water quality can only happen through legislation. We know that’s not true.

Here are three ways the EPC & DNR could improve water quality, but blatantly choose not to.

1. Close the LLC loophole

Again and again, we see unpermitted factory farms build one right next to another under different LLCs.  Iowans who have fought factory farms from moving in next door are sick and tired of seeing factory farms build just one or two hogs under the permit threshold which allows them skirt around stronger permitting laws.  DNR has the ability through rulemaking to close this loophole —but is passing the buck to the legislature and choosing to do nothing.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “common area” so factory farms owned by the same person that spread manure on the same fields are considered one large factory farm.
  • Strengthen the definition of “common ownership” so multiple “small” unpermitted factory farms with the same owner(s) are considered one large factory farm, which must comply with manure management plans.

 2. Hold factory farm corporations accountable

Most factory farms in Iowa are operated as “contract growers,” meaning a local person owns the building and the manure, but a big ag corporation– like Cargill, Iowa Select, Maschoff, etc—own the hogs. Currently, when a violation occurs, only the “contact grower” is held responsible.  We think big ag corporations should be responsible for their own mess. The DNR acknowledges that this is possible through rulemaking, but hasn’t made this improvement.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “controlling interest” so corporate integrators like Prestage, Cargill, & Smithfield can be held liable for violations.
  • Strengthening the definition of “enforcement action” so fines or penalties can be issued to corporate integrators who actually own the hogs.

 3. Protect our water

Iowa is in a water crisis and mandatory manure regulations are one way we can clean it up.  DNR can strengthen manure management laws to make sure manure doesn’t runoff into our water but choose not to.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “public use area” in the permitting process to include a lake itself and tributaries of the lake, not just the dock or shelter areas.
  • Banning manure application on frozen/snow-covered/water-saturated ground and on karst terrain – no excuses!

Join us on Tuesday, Oct 18 to tell the EPC to strengthen the rules.  Click here to send a message to the EPC right now!

They Dump It, You Drink it, We Won’t Stop til they clean it up!

LIKE and SHARE to support the #cleanwaterfight

Water pollution and manure spill data show that efforts to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act (CWA) for factory farms are failing to clean up Iowa’s waterways or hold the factory farm industry accountable.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submitted its 3-year progress report for the precedent-setting Work Plan Agreement between the DNR and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 1, explaining what it has done to date to better implement the CWA for Iowa’s thousands of factory farms.

DNR continues to boast that it is successfully meeting the benchmarks required in the EPA/DNR Workplan, yet Iowa’s polluted waterways continue to grow.

Click here to view DNR’s 2016 Clean Water Act Annual Progress Report.

“Iowa is in a water crisis.  We have a record number of polluted waterways, closed beaches, toxic algae blooms, and cities and towns threatening to violate safe drinking water standards, all while DNR fails to hold this polluting industry accountable,” said Brenda Brink, CCI member from Huxley.

“Iowa already produces and spreads 22 billion gallons of untreated liquid manure on our land every year.  This industry is out of control and it’s time we regulate them or issue an immediate moratorium until there are fewer than 100 polluted waterways in Iowa,” said Brink.

The DNR/EPA Work Plan Agreement followed an EPA investigation report that found DNR was not effectively inspecting factory farms, failing to issue CWA permits to polluting operations, and taking inadequate enforcement actions that do not deter further illegal pollution. The Work Plan requires DNR to improve on all fronts.

After three years, DNR has assessed thousands of facilities for unpermitted pollution and has updated its permitting rules. But despite showing progress on paper, the number of polluted waterways in the state continues to grow, there have been 67 manure spills into waterways since 2012, and DNR has yet to issue a single CWA permit to a hog confinement that has illegally discharged. Instead of issuing permits, DNR is allowing violators to choose to “permanently remedy” the cause of their violation without getting a permit. The loophole has undermined the entire Work Plan process and called the quality of DNR’s inspections into question.

“Any factory farm that has a discharge needs to be held accountable through a Clean Water Act permit, not just a slap on the wrist.” said Barb Kalbach, 4th generation family farmer from Dexter.

The report also reveals that in the course of conducting the Work Plan’s required state-wide CAFO inventory, DNR has discovered more than 5,000 animal feeding operations—not accounted for in the Plan—that it will need to assess for unpermitted discharges to Iowa waterways. It plans to postpone these evaluations until after the Work Plan is concluded.

“Three years into the five-year Work Plan, DNR is just learning of thousands of facilities that may be contributing to the state’s widespread water pollution,” said Tarah Heinzen, Staff Attorney with Food & Water Watch. “If DNR is incapable of truly bringing the program into compliance within five years, we will expect EPA to take a more active role.”

Public records obtained by CCI further indicate that DNR is allowing some of the few factory farms with permits to “cancel” permit coverage, without so much as a DNR inspection of the facility to confirm it is no longer discharging first.

Public records also show DNR is changing its factory farm spill data entry practices to avoid public scrutiny, particularly from Iowa CCI.  The statement was located under the ‘Data Entry in HIS or FOCD for Manure Releases/Spills’ section of the FOIA, saying “Generally do not enter as an incoming report in FOCD (database) as that flags it for ICCI.”

“This Work Plan will only be successful if it leads to real oversight of factory farm pollution in Iowa. That means serious inspections, strong permits, and enforcement actions that ensure it doesn’t pay to pollute. DNR hasn’t shown that it takes permitting and enforcement seriously, and EPA should step in and conduct independent investigations of Iowa manure spills,” said Jess Mazour, Farm & Environment Organizer at Iowa CCI.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly 22 billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 800 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 725 polluted waterways. Water data collected from Iowa’s 2014 list of impaired waterways shows manure as a leading cause of impaired waterways in Iowa lakes and rivers.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.

For more information, visit www.iowacci.org.

Strengthen the Factory Farm Rules – Part 2

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reviews factory farm rules only once every five years. Now is our chance to strengthen the rules. Iowa is in a water crisis because voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

Why do we want a stronger rule? Factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure every year in Iowa and that manure is polluting our water. This is an opportunity to hold factory farms accountable and help us achieve a clean water Iowa IF it is strengthened.

Take action to hold factory farms accountable for their water pollution here! 

We’re demanding DNR close corporate factory farm loopholes as part of the rule strengthening. Here are 3 examples of loopholes that must be closed.  

 

Should Iowa close the factory farm loopholes?People before polluters

  • LLC Loophole. We’re seeing 2,499 head factory farms build one right after another under different LLCs.  Iowans who have fought factory farms from coming in next door are sick and tired of them building just one-or-two hogs under the permit threshold so they can skirt around permitting laws.  We think it’s time they close this LLC loophole and regulate them like any other factory farm that houses 2,500 hogs or more.
  • County Extensions.  Did you know that the factory farm applicant and Iowa DNR can ask for a 30 days extension on an application but the County Board of Supervisors cannot? Under Iowa law a notice about an incoming factory farm must be published in the local paper.  But, most neighbors don’t find out until it’s nearly too late to fight.  We believe that counties should be allowed extensions just like the developer and the DNR.
  • Commercial businesses. In 2012, Iowa DNR and Prestage Farms told CCI member JoAnn that her business wasn’t considered a “commercial enterprise” because it wasn’t open in the winter.  This meant the factory farm could build closer to her than if they ruled it was commercial enterprise.  This is Iowa – we have harsh winters.  Lots of Iowa businesses, like landscape companies, vacation resorts, and ice cream shops, close down in the winter. That doesn’t make them less of a business.  DNR needs to expand its definition of a commercial enterprise to make sure all of Iowa’s family-owned businesses are protected from factory farms.

These are just three ways we’re suggesting DNR close corporate loopholes to even the playing field for Iowans across the state.  We have 11 total demands to deliver to the DNR.

Click here tell the Iowa DNR to close corporate factory farm loopholes by strengthening the factory farm rule!

We need 1,000 comments by June – let’s do this!

If you missed our last post about how we want to strengthen the rules click here.

 

 

Strengthen the Factory Farm Rules – Part 1

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reviews factory farm rules only once every five years. Now is our chance to strengthen the rules. Iowa is in a water crisis because voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

Why do we want a stronger rule? Factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure every year in Iowa and that manure is polluting our water. This is an opportunity to hold factory farms accountable and help us achieve a clean water Iowa IF it is strengthened.

Take action to hold factory farms accountable for their water pollution here!  

We have several demands to make this rule stronger, and below, we lay out two of them.

 

22 billion gallons of manure: who’s responsible, where does it go?

We hear two questions about the factory farm industry often:

Where do the billions of gallons of manure go?

Who really owns these factory farms?

Sac County - all fields & watersheds
Map of factory farms and manure fields in Sac County created by Iowa CCI’s Manure Mapping Team.

But, the exact answers to those questions are not public knowledge. Last year, we discovered why they absolutely must be.

A team of Iowa CCI members mapped and audited over 200 factory farm Manure Management Plans – a plan factory farms must submit to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources indicating what they plan to do with the manure they produce.

The DNR attempted to brush what we found under the rug: incorrect application rates (how much manure is applied to the fields), double-dumping, and more.

Iowa has too much manure to handle and one way we can prove that is by having access to manure application records – not just the plans. That is one of our demands from the DNR’s consideration of the factory farm rule: we need access to those records.

One of our other demands is being able to access the names of factory farm stakeholders – who is actually involved in these projects?

Most factory farms in Iowa are “contract growers”, meaning the local person owns the building and the manure but a big ag corporation owns the hogs – like Cargill, Iowa Select, Maschoff, etc.  But, the corporate contract company’s name and contact information are not required to be included in all Manure Management Plans.

We’re asking the DNR to strengthen the factory farm rule by including the corporation’s name and contact information in the Manure Management Plan.

These are two of our demands for Iowa DNR to strengthen the rules for Iowa’s 9,000 factory farms. We have 11 total demands to deliver to the DNR.

Click here to take action and tell the DNR that we need more transparency of manure records and who’s actually running the show out in rural Iowa!

We need 1,000 comments by June – let’s do this!

 

 

IOWA’S “MANURE SPILL SEASON”

IN FULL FORCE

 

 

Iowans Demand EPA Return To Iowa To Force Factory Farm Compliance With The Clean Water Act

 

 

According to DNR records there have been at least five factory farm spills that reached Iowa waterways in the past three weeks:

  • FISH KILL: Osceola & Clay County – factory farm egg washing liquid dumped in Stony Creek polluting 18.2 miles of stream and killing 163,001 fish
  • FISH KILL: Cherokee County – Bear Creek, source unknown
  • FISH KILL: Buchanan County – factory farm manure overflowed from manure pit and entered West Branch Pine Creek
  • Mahaska County – valve on manure tank failed and 3,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered a tributary of the Skunk River
  • FISH KILL: Allamakee County – manure application equipment broke and 1,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered Clark Creek

 

 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) members are outraged at the number of manure spills occurring in Iowa each year during what many call “manure spill season.”

“Right now, as crops are being harvested, thousands of factory farms across the state are starting to spread upwards of 10 billion gallons of toxic, untreated manure on Iowa farmland,” said Rosie Partridge, conservationist and small business owner in Wall Lake, Iowa. “We’re seeing equipment breaks, pits overflow, and careless practices like spreading manure on highly erodible land, on steep slopes and near waterways.  At what point is there too much manure in Iowa?  I think we passed that point a long time ago.”

CCI members say the DNR needs to start holding this industry accountable for polluting Iowa’s waterways.

“In 2012 the EPA investigated the DNR and found that the DNR has an inadequate inspection program, fails to respond to spills, and does not issue fines and penalties that deter future pollution,” said Larry Ginter, a retired family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa. “It’s 2015 and nothing has changed. The EPA needs to come back to Iowa and make the DNR implement the Clean Water Act with teeth.”

Like the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, CCI members want the DNR to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act for factory farms. CCI members believe that Clean Water Act permits, tough fines and penalties and on-site inspections that find and fix problems will drastically reduce the amount of manure polluting Iowa’s waterways each year.

“We’re sick and tired of corporate agriculture being exempt from any laws and regulations meant to protect people and the environment; they should be held to the same standards as every other industry in Iowa,” said Ginter. “Isn’t it obvious that voluntary doesn’t work?”

CCI members will be meeting with the DNR on November 3 to address the lack of enforcement and regulation of Manure Management Plans and application.

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 800 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 725 polluted waterways.

 

Join the Fight

  • Factory farm proposing to build near you? Have concerns about an existing facility? We can work with you and your community to fight back and stand up for clean air and water and your quality of life.

Learn more

 

 

DNR/EPA CLEAN WATER ACT WORKPLAN AGREEMENT FAILS TO PREVENT MANURE SPILLS

2 Years Since Historic Clean Water Act Agreement And Still No Permits For Hog Factory Farms

 

Des Moines, IA.  In early August Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submitted its 2-year progress report of the precedent-setting Work Plan Agreement between the DNR and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the Clean Water Act (CWA) for factory farms in Iowa. Iowa CCI is calling out the DNR for the lack of detail in the report about the outcome of DNR inspections and why no Clean Water Act permits have been issued.

Click here to view DNR’s 2015 Clean Water Act Annual Progress Report.

“This is an absolute disgrace.  We’ve been saying for 8 years that the DNR is failing to do its job to hold factory farms accountable for their pollution and sadly we’re proven right,” said Larry Ginter, CCI member and family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “We’ve already had at least 17 manure spills this year.  If DNR was completing good inspections, you’d think the number of manure spills would go down significantly each year, but it doesn’t.”

The DNR agreed to assess twenty percent of Iowa’s 8,500+ factory farm facilities each year to determine which operations need permits.  The 2-year progress report states they have completed 41% over the past two years.

The DNR touts the number of inspections as a success but CCI members think otherwise.

“It’s not just about the quantity of inspections – it’s about the quality of inspections,”  said Ginter.  “Who cares how many you’ve completed if they don’t result in anything but more pollution?”

The Work Plan also required the DNR to “timely issue [Clean Water Act] permits that meet federal requirements to all CAFOs that DNR determines discharge to Waters of the U.S.”

According to DNR records, since the Work Plan was signed on September 11, 2013 there have been at least 99 documented manure spills in Iowa yet the DNR failed to issue a single Clean Water Act permit to any of the polluting hog factory farms.

Barb Lynch, DNR Chief of Field Services and Compliance was quoted saying ‘Since the majority of larger facilities in Iowa are confinements, with animals housed under a roof and state law requiring manure containment, most facilities we inspect do not have problems with manure runoff’.

However, water data collected from Iowa’s 2014 list of impaired waterways shows manure as one of the leading cause of impaired waterways in Iowa lakes and rivers.  CCI members say this and the fact the DNR has issued no CWA permits shows how the DNR continues to work for factory farm corporations by misleading the public about the cause of Iowa’s polluted waterways and not holding them accountable for the pollution they create.

Also, CWA permits aren’t just targeted at runoff problems, they are for any kind of pollution discharge leaving a facility.

“We see dozens of cases of factory farms with multiple manure spills,” said Barb Kalbach, 4th generation family farmer from Dexter.  “Any factory farm that has a discharge needs a CWA permit and needs to be held accountable, not just a slap on the wrist.”

Another demand of the DNR to meet the Clean Water Act Work Plan is “to implement enforcement program that ensures penalties are sought in accordance with DNR’s [Enforcement Management System] and creates a stronger deterrent to noncompliance”.

In the past 2 years, DNR has only issued 23 Administrative Orders and 1 Attorney General referral against factory farm polluters with manure spills or other violations.  That means out of the 99 polluters, 75 of them received no meaningful penalty for their manure spill.  CCI members believe that the lack of penalties sends a message to the industry that manure spills are just a cost of doing business.

DNR is also failing to meet the final Work Plan requirement, which is to keep the public informed of its Work Plan progress.  So far the Work Plan progress updates have been vague and contain very little real information. The annual report lacks detail about the outcome of inspections and why no Clean Water Act permits have been issued to a hog factory farm.

“The 2-year report lacks detail,” said Kalbach. “DNR provided no detail on the outcome of assessments and how they determined that a factory farm does not need a CWA permit. The DNR needs to take a presumption that every factory farm has a potential to discharge and therefore every factory farm has the duty to apply for a permit.”

“This Work Plan will only be successful if it leads to real oversight of factory farm pollution in Iowa. That means serious inspections, strong permits, and enforcement actions that ensure it doesn’t pay to pollute. DNR hasn’t shown that it takes permitting seriously, and EPA should step in and conduct independent investigations of Iowa manure spills,” said Jess Mazour, Farm & Environment Organizer at Iowa CCI.

CCI members are calling on the DNR to strengthen the Clean Water Act implementation with four demands:

  1. Issue a Clean Water Act Permit to every factory farm in Iowa.
  2. Complete quality on-site inspections that find problems and fix problems.
  3. Issue tough fines and penalties that deter future pollution.
  4. Create a transparent database of manure spills, inspections and details of specific factory farms.

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 800 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 725 polluted waterways.