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.

 

Des Moines, IA.  Boone Water Works is in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act due to high Nitrate levels in drinking water sources.  Iowa CCI members, who are ratepayers of Boone and Xenia Water, say that Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship, and Governor Branstad aren’t doing enough to protect Iowans from harmful nitrate pollution coming from factory farm manure and ag fertilizer.

“We have been on Xenia Rural Water since 1997.  We signed on as soon as it became available to us because our well water was not good.  And now because our Governor has refused to address this huge elephant in the room, water systems across Iowa are at risk. This is the first time Xenia has had a high-nitrate alert, but with the current state of affairs I see that it won’t be the last”, said Brenda Brink, Xenia ratepayer and resident of Huxley, Iowa.

“I am so angry that we as citizens cannot depend on our elected officials to ensure safe drinking water.  Apparently, our Governor thinks that Avian flu is worth his attention while the people of this state cannot drink the water, cannot fish in its rivers and streams and cannot allow their children to enjoy natural parks and creeks, for fear of ag-related nitrate run-off.  Instead of putting up signs warning us not to use water, we need the Department of Natural Resources to go after the polluters.  We shouldn’t be paying for their abuse of our water,” said Brink.

“As the water pollution problems continue to increase and move upstream more of us are being poisoned with toxic drinking water.  The Boone County water system cannot handle the ever increasing nitrate levels as the Des Moines, multimillion dollar system is attempting to do.  Our city and county cannot afford to build a new system and so our welfare is being sacrificed to support corporate ag profits.  This is our drinking water, not just our water to recreate in.  It is time to replace our pro-pollution County Board of Supervisors, state representatives, and governor in order to clean up our water,” said Mark Edwards, CCI member and former DNR employee and ratepayer from Boone.

“I believe this is the first time Boone has violated the drinking water standard, if this is the case it is an indication this problem is not getting better.  It would be nice to see something done on the Nitrate issue, whether it’s through courts or the ag community addressing the situation.  I don’t think voluntary is going to work.  It’s not a knock against farmers but it’s just human nature.” Gary Benjamin, CEO/General Manager of Xenia Water.

Iowa CCI members that the only way to address this issue is to go directly after the source of the pollution – factory farm manure and ag fertilizer.  CCI members are demanding Clean Water Act permits be issued to factory farms in Iowa so they are held to tougher standards or are shutdown.  CCI members also believe that voluntary measure do not and will not work.

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 725 polluted waterways.

 

They DUMP it, you DRINK it, we won’t stop ’til they clean it up!

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.

 

CCI Member, Ray Harden, from Perry, Iowa wrote an excellent piece about the Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit and the new dirty water attack ad.  Check it out!

 

DES MOINES WATERWORKS LAWSUIT

 

The T.V. commercial opposing the Des Moines Waterworks legal action against  three county drainage districts in northwest Iowa has misleading statements. The commercial gives the impression that individual farmers are being sued, this is incorrect.  The legal action is against drainage districts, not farmers or landowners.  Under Iowa law the drainage districts are run by the county supervisors, they are responsible for operating and maintaining the drainage district system.

The Des Moines Waterworks (DMWW) is saying that the districts are allowing water that contains known  pollutants to be discharged into Iowa’s waterways via a drainage ditch is a “point source of pollution” and should be regulated by the Federal Clean Water Act.  The discharge from the drainage ditches should be treated the same way as a discharge from a municipal sewage facility.  DMWW wants drainage districts to be regulated and be required to have a permit for discharge.  This is what the courts will decide.

The most egregious  statement made in the T.V. commercial is: ” Currently Iowa’s rivers are the cleanest they have been in twenty years.”  The Iowa Clean Water Alliance does not provide any data to backup this claim regarding water quality.  It is ironic that the statement was made the same week that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported Iowa’s

“Impaired Bodies of Water” has increased 15% in the last two years- there are now 725 bodies of water on the list (Des Moines Register May 15).  The North Raccoon River, that flows through Dallas County, is one the most polluted.

The “Clean Water Alliance” does not provide any data to backup this statement regarding water quality.  I am not seeing the rivers getting cleaner.   I do a monthly nitrate test on three drainage tiles that flow into a creek near Perry.  From late winter to May  these three tiles have consistently had nitrate reading of 15mgm per liter to 20mgm per liter.  More that 10mgm per liter is not considered to be safe in drinking water.

I did nitrate tests on the waters of the North Raccoon River, from Greene County to Dallas County on a recent canoe trip and found similar nitrate readings.    The river’s color is also a sign of water quality- the river was a chocolate brown, indicating a lot of soil erosion.  The soil washing into the streams carries fertilizer, manure, and other undesirable chemicals that have a harmful effect on wildlife and humans.

It has been many years since I have caught a walleye or smallmouth bass in the Raccoon River- fish that need clean water.  It has been equally as long since I have see a live mussel or clam in the river; they are dying because of nitrates in the water.  Where is the clean water the commercial is referring to?

I am pleased the Des Moines Water Works is moving forward with the lawsuit.  This action will bring more focus to the problem and hopefully the Iowa Legislature and governor will provide more funds for agricultural conservation practices and regulations to improve Iowa’s water quality.

 

Ray Harden

Perry, Iowa

 

 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

 

Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
How the factory farm model exacerbates the Bird Flu Epidemic

Chicken and turkey factory farms cram thousands, even millions, of birds into one facility.  This model of raising livestock creates the perfect conditions for diseases like the Avian Bird Flu that has spread across Iowa and Minnesota.

  • Birds in factory farms are unhealthy to begin with. Birds in confined unsanitary conditions have decreased immune systems that make it more difficult to fight off disease. This means the disease can spread quickly, infecting every bird in the facility before it’s detected.  Birds on small family farms are less dense and controlling the spread of the disease could be easier.
  • Birds in factory farms are almost genetically identical. This means when one bird becomes infected the entire flock will become infected. Birds on small family farms have varying genetics so some birds may not be affected by the spread of the disease.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The factory farm model of raising chickens and turkeys creates a system that could collapse and create an economic crisis as we’re seeing with the recent Avian Bird Flu Epidemic. Small family farms can be quarantined quicker and because they are spread out, could isolate the crisis without taking a big hit to the market.

Before Iowa Governor Branstad throws more taxpayer money and resources in to cleaning up this factory farm created crisis Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, United State Department of Agriculture, and other involved agencies need to answer the following questions publically to ensure these factory farms do not cut environmental corners in the cleanup just to get birds back into the building:

  • What is the full emergency plan to fix this crisis?
  • What methods/chemicals/gases will be used to kill all the birds?
  • What will happen to the birds after they are dead?
  • Will the dead birds be spread on the land and if so, what effects will the chemicals used to kill the birds have on soil, water and air? What chemicals are in the fire retardant foam and will this be spread on the land?
  • Will the dead birds be tested for remnants of the virus before being spread on the land?
  • Millions of dead birds will create quite a stink in rural Iowa, what is your plan to ensure neighbors will not lose their quality of life while the birds are decomposing?
  • Are there any reports of natural birds being affected by this flu?
  • If industry and government officials say this was caused by migratory birds, where are the dead migratory birds and how many have you found?
  • Are any of the factory farms receiving their chicks from the same hatchery?
  • What is the expected cost to taxpayers for this clean-up? (This is an industry that is already heavily subsidized by taxpayers.)
  • How will the industry be held accountable for creating the conditions where disease, like the Avian Bird Flu, can spread rampant and crash an entire sector of the economy?
  • How much are factory farm owners receiving per bird in compensation costs? What’s the total payout so far?

How the industry is already heavily taxpayer subsidized:

  • sales tax exemptions on feed; ($219.6 million in 2010 across all factory farms)
  • sales tax exemption on energy used to heat and cool buildings; ($9.1 million in 2010 across all factory farms)
  • sales tax exemption on implements of animal husbandry ($34.4 million in 2010 across all ag)
  • sales tax exemption on domesticated fowl ($8.9 million in 2010)
  • sales tax exemption on lab tests for livestock (including fowl) ($3.5 million in 2010)
  • other sales tax exemptions… (fowl bedding, etc)
  • property tax exemptions allowing them to be taxed at the rate of the ag land they occupy, rather than the taxable “productivity” value of the building.

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.