Clean Water Act (CWA) permits hold factory farms to higher standards and it can shut them down!  As of today, the DNR has not issued a single Clean Water Act permit to a hog factory farm in Iowa.

Here’s why Clean Water Act permits can be game-changers as we build a farming system that works for People and the Planet!

  • Broader coverage of enforcement
    • CWA permits must prevent discharges from the production area as well as land application areas. Iowa’s Manure Management Plans (MMPs) only address land application areas.
  • More transparency
    • When permits are proposed the public must be given notice of the proposed permit and an opportunity to comment on it. NPDES permits, and all associated reports, must be publicly accessible.
  • Fixed terms
    • Unlike Iowa’s MMPs, CWA permits have fixed five-year terms. That way, they are subject to being reviewed, updated, or terminated on a regular basis. DNR admitted in an Ag Appropriations Sub-Committee this year that DNR does not review MMPs because they do not have the capacity to do so.
  • Operation & maintenance requirements
    • CWA permits have operation and maintenance requirements so that factory farm operators prevent problems before they happen. Currently, factory farm owners may have to fix a problem after a discharge, but aren’t required to use basic practices that would prevent many discharges in the first place.
  • Higher penalties for violations
    • State law caps penalties at $5,000 per day per violation and the state cannot collect more than $10,000 per violation. Under the CWA, penalties are up to $37,500 per day per violation, which would include penalties for discharges or other violations of a permit. Higher penalties mean greater deterrence from pollution. When facilities have NPDES permits, permit violations are also CWA violations that can warrant these heightened penalties, even if the violation does not cause a discharge to a surface water.

If you think the Iowa DNR should start issuing Clean Water Act permits to polluters, join the fight!


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.


Do you want a voice when a factory farm tries to build in your neighborhood?

Dickinson County Supervisors have sent a local control survey to County Supervisors in all 99 Iowa counties to ask how many are in favor of local control.

Dickinson County doesn’t want factory farms near the valuable Iowa Great Lakes and believe they should be deciding what’s good for Dickinson County – not the industry friendly DNR.

 Your Supervisors have received this survey – can you help to ensure they put it on their agenda and vote YES for local control!

3 Easy Steps:

  1. Call your County Supervisors/Auditor and make sure the survey is on the agenda for their next meeting.
  2. Lobby your Supervisors and tell them to vote yes (tell your friends, family and neighbors, too!)
  3. Attend the Supervisor meeting and let us know how it goes.

Iowa’s 8,500 factory farms pollute our air, water and quality of life – it’s time we’re allowed to say “No” when they want to build in our neighborhoods.


In the past two weeks alone, we attended an Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting, met with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Attorney General’s office, and the Director of the DNR, Chuck Gipp.

All of these meetings focused on pushing the DNR to use the new Clean Water Act Rule by issuing Clean Water Act permits to factory farm polluters – our people power is paying off!


Meeting with the EPA


CCI leaders sat down with top staff from US Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 from Kansas City, after they reached out to us before their scheduled visit with the DNR. Iowa CCI leaders updated EPA on our work to push the DNR to implement the Clean Water Act in Iowa for factory farms. Members laid out the facts:

  • The DNR has failed to issue a single Clean Water Act permit.  Since the Clean Water Act work plan passed in September 2013, there have been 74 documented manure spills, 15 manure spills that reached water, and at least 12 emergency application exemptions. The DNR should start off 2015 on the right foot by permitting these polluters.
  • The DNR has not changed the way it issues fines and penalties.  Since the Clean Water Act work plan passed in September 2013 only 13 of the 74 manure spills have received a fine or penalty.  The DNR needs to do more to deter future pollution by levying stiff fines and penalties to polluters.
  • The DNR only completed inspections on 14% of the factory farms in Iowa.  We’ve seen many manure spills happen shortly after an inspection was completed, or spills at a factory farm that hasn’t been inspected in many years. The DNR needs to ensure that inspections find problems, fix problems, and lead to permits.
  • The DNR databases have inaccurate information, contradict each other and/or lack important details, and we’re concerned about the transparency of the Clean Water Act implementation process. The DNR needs to keep the public fully informed every step of the way.

After powerful personal testimonies about our members’ experiences fighting factory farms, living with the impacts of factory farms in both rural and urban areas, and our assessment of the DNR’s progress, we shared a great conversation with the folks from the EPA.

We heard the EPA voicing some of the same concerns regarding DNR’s training of inspectors across the state, about the determinations that DNR has come to (and also by the fact that no permits have been issued!) We agreed to follow up again on the DNR’s progress next year.

Meeting with the DNR


A team of 3 CCI leaders, assisted by 3 of our attorneys from the Environmental Integrity Project and Food & Water Watch, sat down with DNR Director Chuck Gipp and his key staff charged with implementing the Clean Water Act in Iowa for factory farms. We laid out the same information and concerns we presented to the EPA, and had a 90 minute discussion on what it will actually take for the DNR to start issuing permits and crack down on factory farm polluters to clean up our water.

The Good:

In response to our concerns about inspections, the DNR acknowledged they need to continue training inspectors at the field offices around the state to ensure that inspections are consistent and comprehensive. Over the course of the meeting, the DNR acknowledged that they are open to issuing permits to factory farms that pollute waterways. They are more consistently issuing fines to polluters when manure spills reach waterways. And DNR staff agreed to get us the information we are looking for, and to work with us to make sure that this information is readily available to the public in a way that is easy to understand. They were open to supporting some of our legislative proposals for the 2015 session as well.

Could be better:

We have a lot more work to do. It is clear that even though DNR is more open to permitting factory farm polluters, they have set a very high bar for what kind of factory farm will need a permit. We will need to continue to push the DNR to permit all factory farms, and we must remain vigilant in monitoring their implementation to ensure that they:

  • continue to deter polluters with stiff fines and penalties to all manure spills, not just those that reach a waterway
  • are consistently performing inspections that find and fix problems at factory farms
  • issue Clean Water Act permits to factory farms

What’s Next:

We’ll continue to keep the pressure on Iowa’s DNR to implement the Clean Water Act and crack down on factory farms. We’ll kick off 2015 on all fronts:

  • pushing our People & Planet First policies for Clean Water at the Iowa Statehouse;
  • Staying in front of the DNR & EPC, demanding action on manure spills and permitting
  • Working with the Iowa Attorney General’s office, reaching out to the US Attorney’s office, and working with our own attorneys to file precedent setting lawsuits against factory farm polluters that would result in stiff fines and penalties and Clean Water Act permits as part of a favorable judgment.

We’ll be busy in the new year, and we can’t do it alone. That’s why we’ll be calling on you to help us build the people power necessary to continue organizing, and to win.

Meeting with the AG


Nearly 40 CCI members and staff met at the Hoover Building meeting with the Iowa Attorney General’s office. We were joined by our legal partners from Food and Water Watch and The Environmental Integrity Project, Michele Merkle and Scott Edwards, and Tarah Heinzen respectively.

  • CCI member Deborah Bunka provided a brief history of CCI’s work and resulting impact on clean water policy in Iowa. She provided key dates and their events going back a few years and leading up to now, over a year since implementing the Clean Water Act for factory farms and still not seeing a single permit issued to a factory farm polluter. Deborah also spoke about the DNR’s lack of quality inspections and transparency of information on manure spills that have already occurred.

CCI member Rosie Partridge laid out our demands, plain and simple: When the DNR won’t crack down on polluters, we want the AG’s office to step in and do it.

We laid out our legislative agenda for the 2015 session:

  • An end to the “no more stringent than” law that declares that a state’s law cannot be harsher or “more stringent” than federal law. Federal law needs to be a floor – not a ceiling.
  • An increased maximum fine amount that the DNR has the authority to issue to factory farm polluters. The current maximum of $10,000 is not enough to deter polluters, as they only consider it to be a cost of doing business as usual which is why our waterways are more polluted than ever.
  • Iowa’s “habitual violator law” needs to be updated to include Administrative Orders, not just action taken by the Attorney General. Many confined animal feeding operations are habitual violators but are not currently classified as such due to the exclusion of AOs in their history.
  • Our team of lawyers brought up the Smithfield Agreement and Packer Ban, as well as producer protection, which lead to some impassioned statements from CCI members Larry Ginter and Chris Petersen.

Our hope for this meeting was to educate the AG’s staff about the state of Iowa’s water and the DNR’s near-complete failure to enforce the Clean Water Act. We want to ignite them on this issue enough so that they exercise their independent filing authority against factory farm polluters.

Our take away was hopeful, with Eric Tabor sharing with us that with it being Attorney General Tom Miller’s last term in office he is looking to make some lasting impressions on the people of Iowa, which he mentioned includes action for Iowa’s water.

We will be following up with the AG office in the coming weeks to share with them information we have on the past year’s manure spills that the DNR has failed to provide to them.


Learn more


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.

We wanted to go out with a bang for clean water this year, so our last request to the DNR to start cracking down on factory farm manure polluters is one you gotta see.



What’s the plan after the holidays? We’re going to fight even harder for meaningful legislation at the Statehouse. Stay tuned!


Learn more


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.


Weather, Insufficient DNR Funding and Lack Of Regulation Show Need for a 180 on Factory Farm Policy and Enforcement 

Des Moines, IA.  A trifecta of problems within the factory farm industry have led to one of the largest threats to Iowa’s water in recent years, Iowa CCI members say.  Weather, the ever-growing quantity of manure being dumped untreated onto Iowa’s land and the lack of regulation of the entire industry shows that the amount of manure produced in Iowa is too much for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), our land and water to handle.



Weather is creating crisis on the frontlines of the factory farm manure pollution problem.  Iowa had unusually high rainfall and early freezing temperatures this year which delayed factory farmers from spreading manure in October and November.  Many factory farms knife-in the manure, a practice that injects the manure into the ground to limit the amount that could runoff into Iowa’s waters.  With the early freeze, DNR sent out a press release last week with instructions on how to get an emergency exemption to spread the manure without knifing it in.


Spreading manure on frozen ground increases the chance of runoff and pollution because the manure is less likely to be absorbed into the ground and is more likely to run into tile lines that are direct pathways to our water.  Last week Des Moines Water Works reported that high levels of Nitrates in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers may force them to turn on the $7,000-a-day Nitrate removal machine – which is unheard of in November.


CCI members believe the 11 manure spills that occurred in October and the massive amounts of manure being spread on frozen ground this year are a contributing factor to the high nitrate levels seen in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.


“What DNR is saying is basically we’re giving you all a free pass to pollute our water this season,” said Barb Kalbach, 3rd generation family farmer in Stuart.  “This is Iowa, we know temperatures fluctuate and with climate change these unusual weather changes will become more and more frequent.  DNR must come up with another solution other than granting hundreds of emergency exemptions to dump manure right into our water.  DNR needs to say Iowa cannot handle this much manure and we need to rethink how we produce pork in Iowa before we become the cesspool of the world.”


Factory farm construction continues to expand across Iowa, adding to the 10 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure already produced and spread untreated on Iowa’s farm land.  Throughout the spring and summer Iowans across the state have organized to stop new factory farms from infiltrating their communities, with success at the local County Board of Supervisor level.  However, the DNR has overturned nearly every Supervisor recommendation and allowed the factory farms to build.


Insufficient Funding

Every factory farm is required to submit an updated Manure Management Plan (MMP) to the Department of Natural Resources annually and a full MMP update every four years.


With limited funding and lack of an adequate inspection staff this means the 8,500 MMPs are going basically unchecked by the DNR.  MMPs are required by the DNR to make sure factory farmers are not over-applying manure on fields, spreading manure in environmentally unsafe areas and to make sure factory farmers are using proper equipment and procedures when applying manure.


“There is no way that the inspectors can respond to manure spills, inspect 8,500 factory farms, review new or expanding factory farm applications,  and inspect all 8,500 MMPs. It’s just not possible and the consequence of this is the increased pollution of our water,” said Kalbach. “In the 2013 legislative session we pushed for funding for 13 additional inspectors and the DNR said they only needed five.  This shows the DNR doesn’t grasp the severity of our manure pollution problem.”


Lack of Regulation

Finally, DNR has proven to Iowa that they cannot address Iowa’s water crisis because they are too heavily entrenched with factory farm industry insiders.  CCI members have highlighted 10 of the worst manure spills in the past year help the DNR start issuing Clean Water Act permits.  DNR has still not made any meaningful changes in the way they handle manure spills, issue permits, or issue fines and penalties.


“We’re seeing massive manure spills that pollute our water, kill thousands of fish and other aquatic life and take up massive amounts of time and resources of the DNR inspectors, yet they get away with little to no fines at all.  DNR still hasn’t issued any Clean Water act permits to these egregious factory farms,” said Larry Ginter, retired family farmer from Rhodes.  “The DNR says they won’t issue Clean Water Act permits if a factory farm can prove they have fully remedied the problem.  These factory farms have had three, four or sometimes even five spills.  Isn’t it obvious they can’t and haven’t remedied the problem?”


CCI members say this trifecta of problems highlights the need for a dramatic change at the DNR to get a grasp on the 10 billion gallons of manure already produced and spread on the land in Iowa.


“The truth will be in the numbers come March or April 2015 when the DNR releases the new number of polluted waterways in Iowa,” said Ginter.  “We’ve seen an increase in polluted waterways every year since they started keeping track and we expect nothing different this year because the DNR isn’t doing anything about pollution.”


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.


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.



DNR Fails To Collect More Than $400,000 In Fines and Penalties For Environmental Violations, Some Going Back 10 Years

18 factory farms owe state of Iowa nearly $60,000 in uncollected fines

 The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has failed to collect $401,154 in unpaid fines and penalties from industrial and agribusiness operations who have violated state environmental laws, including $59,204 in uncollected fines from 18 factory farms.

A DNR spreadsheet obtained by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement documenting these uncollected fees and fines is available here.

“We will never be able to clean up Iowa’s waters if it continues to be cheaper to pollute than to protect,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member and family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “We need to start holding these polluters accountable and that means tough regulations, tough inspections, and tough fines when there is a violation.”

“If I got a speeding ticket I’d be required to pay it or lose my license.  If a factory farm fails to pay their fine, they should be closed down, too.”

“$400,000 would provide the DNR an additional inspector for 3 years to help with the 5,000 inspections required by the Clean Water Act,” said Ginter.

In addition to the unpaid fines, the number of manure spills charged with a fine or penalty dropped significantly from 2000 to 2013 DNR records show.

In 2001, 80 percent of all manure spills or other environmental violations received a fine.  Now, less than 15 percent of manure spills or other environmental violations receive a fine.  CCI members say this shows the lack of will of the DNR to crack down on polluters and clean up Iowa’s waters.

spills charged with penalty

“Our water continues to become more polluted, we have an increasing number of manure spills, an inadequate number of inspectors and factory farms are getting away with a slap on the wrist for polluting our water,”  said Barb Kalbach, CCI member and 4th generation farmer from Dexter. “This system isn’t working.  Governor Branstad and DNR Director Chuck Gipp aren’t working to clean up our water.  In fact, they’re making it worse.”

With 728 manure spills since 1995 and 630 polluted waterways in Iowa, CCI members say this problem also shows that the current Clean Water Act rule, being considered by the Environmental Protection Commission in August, needs to be strengthen or the DNR will continue business as usual.

“There needs to be a three strikes and you’re out provision and every factory farm polluter needs a Clean Water Act permit,” stated Kalbach.

On August 19, the Branstad appointed EPC will be voting on precedent setting rules to implement the Clean Water Act for factory farms in Iowa.  CCI members say the rule is weak and would continue business as usual.  They plan on attending the EPC meeting in mass to demand the rule be strengthened.