VIDEO:  Factory Farm Outside of Riceville With History of Pollution Problems Discharges Manure Into Impaired Wapsipinicon River Again

 

Iowa CCI members say the DNR failed to issue permits and penalties to the facility after a similar discharge into the Wapsi last year, raising questions about the DNR’s implementation of a Clean Water Act work plan as public hearings on draft new rules begin today in Mason City

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members released a video May 6 documenting an ongoing manure discharge into the Wapsipinicon River from Oak Grove Cattle, LLC outside of Riceville in Mitchell County.  The incident has been verified by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) field staff Trent Lambert, although the DNR failed to notify the public, and follows a similar discharge into the Wapsi River last year from the same facility.

The most recent discharge was first documented on April 8 and was ongoing at least through May 1, when the video was recorded by a next-door neighbor and Iowa CCI member.  Federal law states that operations may be fined as much as $30,000 per day for illegal manure discharges into waters of the United States.

Oak Grove Cattle, LLC is a mixed feedlot/confinement operation with approximately 1,000-head of cattle owned by David Eastman.  The manure discharge first occurred on or about April 8 after an earthen berm failed to contain manure on-site.  The DNR allowed Eastman to construct the berm after last year’s discharges and in February told Iowa CCI members the facility did not need a Clean Water Act permit because the engineering change would permanently remedy the problem.

Last year the DNR issued two Notices of Violation for discharging manure into a water of the state through a manmade conveyance, as well as for housing more than 500 cattle in confinement without having a Manure Management Plan, but failed to assess any kind of fine or monetary penalty.  The 2013 discharges began no later than April 2, 2013 and ended no earlier than May 5, 2013.

A previous discharge incident in 2009 at Oak Grove Cattle resulted in an Administrative Consent Order and a monetary fine.

Iowa CCI member and rural property owner Rita Dvorak, who raises a small herd of sheep outside of Riceville with her husband Lee, has been battling manure runoff from Oak Grove Cattle for years, and has spent thousands of dollars to clean up factory farm manure out of her family’s farm pond and adjacent property.

“This is all foam, this is the runoff,” Dvorak says at the beginning of the May 1 video, which begins at the bank of the Wapsi River before moving upstream to the source of the runoff.

“You can see in the background there where it’s coming out of the berm…that’s the beginning of the breach, you can see where it’s blown out,” Dvorak continues in the video as she records a mix of water and manure running off the factory farm property and into a gully that runs into the Wapsi River.  The feedlot and confinement buildings are both visible in the background near the end of the video clip.

DNR public hearings on draft new Clean Water Act permitting rules that Iowa CCI members have criticized as weak begin May 6 in Mason City and continue every day, minus the weekends, through May 13 in Spencer, Carroll, Des Moines, Calmar, and Ainsworth.  Rita Dvorak will testify at the May 12 hearing in Calmar.

There have been more than 728 documented manure spills since 1996, including at least five in April of this year. Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with more than 900 of the state’s 8,500 factory farms being built since January 1, 2012.   Iowa’s factory farms produce nearly 10 billion gallons of toxic manure every year.

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.   

Four Things DNR Can Do Right Now To Strengthen Draft Clean Water Act Rule To Protect Iowa’s Water From Factory Farm Pollution

 

After months of writing new rule proposal with corporate ag industry input, 28-day public comment begins tomorrow, April 16, ends May 13

 

Nearly two dozen members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members attended an Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting April 15 to lay out four concrete steps the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can take to strengthen a draft Clean Water Act rule giving state regulators the authority to permit factory farm polluters so the industry is forced to play by stronger environmental standards.

A 28-day public comment period on the draft rule proposal begins tomorrow, April 16, and ends May 13, and will include six public hearings in Mason City, Spencer, Carroll, Des Moines, Calmar, and Ainsworth.  Iowa CCI members have criticized the process that has led to this point and say both Governor Terry Branstad and DNR Director Chuck Gipp have prioritized the interests of big-moneyed corporate ag lobby groups ahead of everyday people and the environment.

“I’ve raised hogs and farmed all my life and what Governor Branstad’s DNR is allowing these out of state factory farm corporations to do to our water quality is shameful,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member and independent family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “This rule has to be stronger, because this hands-off, bare minimum approach of the Branstad Administration hasn’t worked in the past and it will not work in the future.”

Iowa CCI members say the draft Clean Water Act rule granting the DNR new permitting powers over factory farm polluters can be strengthened in four major ways:

1)       The rule should clearly state that all factory farm polluters must receive a Clean Water Act permit that forces them to abide by stronger environmental standards or get shut down.  Both Minnesota and Wisconsin require all factory farms to obtain federal operating permits.

2)      The rule should include a “three strikes and you’re out” provision for habitual violators so Iowans can shut down the worst of the worst polluters.

3)      The rule should clearly state that factory farm polluters have a “duty to apply” and that the burden of proof assuring pollution will not happen again lies with the polluter, not the DNR or the people of Iowa.

4)      The rule should require the DNR to build a comprehensive, user-friendly, online database of manure spills, Clean Water Act inspections, and permitting, so that everyday Iowans can audit the DNR’s inspections and permitting decisions and hold them accountable if they continue to kowtow to the factory farm industry.

One CCI member in attendance, Jean Lappe, drove more than three hours from Morning Sun, Iowa near the Louisa and Des Moines county borders to speak out against proposed plans by Cargill to build 13 new factory farms within 2 miles of her home.  In her testimony, she used the acronym CAFO, which stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, another term for factory farm.

“How am I supposed to live with 13 CAFOs within 2 miles of my home?” Lappe asked the EPC commissioners.

There have been at least 728 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways, according to DNR records.  Some researchers have found that manure from factory farm lagoons is leaking at more than twice the rate allowed by law, and it’s anyone’s guess how many times rainwater, floods, or melting snow have run freshly spread liquid manure off of farmland and into rivers, lakes, and streams.

Des Moines Water Works has also reported some ammonia problems already this Spring that the water utility says “often” comes from “livestock operations” and “manure-fertilized fields”.  Last year, Des Moines Water Works spent nearly $1 million removing nitrates from drinking water drawn from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with nearly one thousand of the state’s 8,500 factory farms being built since January 1, 2012.   A conservative estimate finds that Iowa’s 21 million hogs produce between five and ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.

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.

Adair County Denies Factory Farm Expansion Request

 

Local-area CCI members directly impacted demand Iowa DNR uphold county’s decision

On Tuesday, Adair County Supervisors voted 3-2 to deny a factory farm expansion proposal near Orient.  Over a dozen members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) who live near the proposed factory farm attended the hearing Tuesday but weren’t allowed public comment during the meeting.  Iowa CCI members submitted written comment challenging Master Matrix points submitted by Circle G Pork.

“We’re happy that the Adair County Supervisors decided to deny the factory farm application but we’re disappointed that the county wouldn’t let us publically testify about something that will negatively impact our water, air and quality of life,” said Ann Merritt, a CCI member who’s rural tourism business is located under a mile from the proposed factory farm.  “We’re taxpayers and should be able to speak in front of the board.  Democracy works when people are involved.”

“We call on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to uphold the county’s decision and deny the construction permit for this factory farm.”

Iowa CCI members have requested a meeting with DNR environmental chief Bill Ehm in Adair county on April 21.

Neighbors of the proposed factory farm say that the site is located at the top of the watershed and any runoff from the factory farm or fields will threaten everyone downstream.

The Supervisors recommended the Iowa DNR deny the application based on two discrepancies on the Master Matrix application first identified by local-area Iowa CCI members.  The application now goes to the DNR where they must rule on the county’s decision within 30 days.

There are two other factory farm expansions in Adair and Union County that CCI members and other local residents in the area will be fighting to stop in the next couple weeks.  The public hearings are in Union County on April 14 at 10 am at the Union County Courthouse and in Adair County on April 23 at 9 am at the Adair County Courthouse.  If approved, these three factory farms would produce close to 5 million gallons of toxic liquid manure a year and add 7,200 corporate owned factory farm hogs to the Adair and Union Counties.

There have been at least 728 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways, according to DNR records.  Some researchers have found that manure from factory farm lagoons is leaking at more than twice the rate allowed by law, and it’s anyone’s guess how many times rainwater, floods, or melting snow have run freshly spread liquid manure off of farmland and into rivers, lakes, and streams.

Des Moines Water Works has also reported some ammonia problems already this Spring that the water utility says “often” comes from “livestock operations” and “manure-fertilized fields”.  Last year, Des Moines Water Works spent nearly $1 million removing nitrates from drinking water drawn from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with nearly one thousand of the state’s 8,500 factory farms being built since January 1, 2012.   A conservative estimate finds that Iowa’s 21 million hogs produce between five and ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.

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.

CCI Members Slam Gov. Branstad’s DNR For Undercutting Public Input On Critical New Clean Water Act Rule 

 

After months of closed-door meetings with industry lobby groups and the governor’s office, the Iowa DNR says they will only allow a 28-day public comment period

 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members slammed Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Chuck Gipp April 8 for attempting to limit public comment on new Clean Water Act rules to only 28 days after months of closed-door meetings with the corporate ag lobby.

Iowa CCI members say the attempt to limit public comment is part of a long pattern of anti-transparent behavior by the Branstad Administration to shield big corporations from accountability and public scrutiny.

“Governor Branstad and DNR Director Gipp need to stop working with the industry and start working with everyday people to crack down on factory farm pollution instead of attempting to shut the public out of the decision-making process,” said Lori Nelson, the Iowa CCI board president from Bayard whose rural homestead is surrounded by 5,000 corporate hogs.

Iowa DNR legal counsel Randy Clark, available at 515.282.8891 or randy.clark@dnr.iowa.gov, confirmed to Iowa CCI members that public comment on the draft Clean Water Act rule would begin April 16 and end May 13.  Six public hearings in Mason City, Spencer, Carroll, Des Moines, Calmar, and Ainsworth will also be jammed into the space of six back-to-back working days, May 6-13, excluding Mother’s Day weekend May 10-11.

“The Notice of Intended Action [set to be published April 16] will provide that the comment period ends on May 13, 2014.  Thereafter DNR staff will review the comments and summarize them in a responsiveness summary which will be provided to the [Environmental Protection Commission] at the time it considers adopting the proposed amendments.  The DNR will strive to bring this to the August EPC meeting,” DNR legal counsel Randy Clark wrote Iowa CCI members March 31.

Iowa CCI members say DNR rulemaking on similar issues in the past typically ran at least 60 days and often as long as 180 days, and that the 28-day window in this case for citizen input beginning April 16 and ending May 13 will drastically limit the ability of everyday Iowans to learn more about the proposed Clean Water Act permitting rule and participate fully in the public comment process.

A strong Clean Water Act rule has the potential to force some 8,500 factory farms in Iowa to either start playing by tougher environmental standards or get shut down, but the rule as currently written is much weaker and leaves too much discretion to state regulators to look the other way and continue business as usual.

The proposed new rule was mandated by a September 11, 2013 work plan agreement signed by the Iowa DNR and the EPA after years of organizing and litigation by Iowa CCI members and allies the Environmental Integrity Project and the Iowa Sierra Club.  The work plan negotiations last summer were marked by the political interference of Governor Branstad, who brought key industry lobbyists into the meetings by state and federal regulators.

The DNR’s first post-workplan meeting with the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers, and Iowa Cattleman’s Association was November 15, 2013 and the DNR made at least one change after that to weaken the proposed rule based on industry comment.  The rule was then held up for several weeks in late February and early March by the governor’s office before being forwarded on to the EPC at their March meeting.

There have been at least 728 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways, according to DNR records.  Some researchers have found that manure from factory farm lagoons is leaking at more than twice the rate allowed by law, and it’s anyone’s guess how many times rainwater, floods, or melting snow have run freshly spread liquid manure off of farmland and into rivers, lakes, and streams.

Des Moines Water Works has also reported some ammonia problems already this Spring that the water utility says “often” comes from “livestock operations” and “manure-fertilized fields”.  Last year, Des Moines Water Works spent nearly $1 million removing nitrates from drinking water drawn from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with nearly one thousand of the state’s 8,500 factory farms being built since January 1, 2012.   A conservative estimate finds that Iowa’s 21 million hogs produce between five and ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.

On April 4, Iowa CCI members met with Representative Dave Loebsack’s (IA-2) staff in Iowa City to urge him to join the growing number of co-sponsors to HR 1579 – the Inclusive Prosperity Act.  Our visit was in conjunction with dozens of similar actions across the country aimed at building momentum and support for common sense legislation that would finally begin to make Wall Street pay its fair share.

HR 1579 would impose a small sales tax (much like everyday people pay on daily goods and services) on Wall Street transactions, including high frequency trades, that could bring in hundreds of billions in new revenue a year – revenue that would be invested in creating new economy jobs and strengthening vital public services.

Our message to Rep. Loebsack was simple – this is how reduce inequality in the United States and get our economy back on track to serve everyday people.

Politicians these days talk about where they’re going to find the money to do x, y, z… well, this is a solution” – Iowa CCI member Jeff Strottman

This is about Wall Street finally beginning to pay their fair share – Iowa CCI member Lynn Gallagher

You could defend a vote for this bill in any town in Iowa across political parties – Iowa CCI member Jim Walters

Join us in encouraging Rep. Loebsack and others in Congress to take a meaningful step in making Wall Street pay its fair share through bringing forward the Inclusive Prosperity Act by clicking here.  And stay tuned for more on what you can do this spring and summer to push our elected officials to champion policies that Put People First!

 

Join the Fight!

 

peoplemoremoneyIowa CCI Members Slam U.S. Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Aggregate Campaign Contribution Limits

 

Iowa Congressional Races Could Be Impacted This Year

 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) slammed a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCutcheon vs. the FEC to do away with aggregate political donor limits, a ruling that will open the floodgates for a small handful of America’s richest 1 percent to continue corrupting the country’s democratic institutions through massive campaign contributions.

Iowa CCI members also warn that the 5-4 ruling could have an immediate impact on Iowa’s congressional midterm elections and call on everyday Iowans to organize to protect the interests of the common good against a potential onslaught of corporate money.

“The floodgates are totally open now and the negative impact of this decision could have far-reaching consequences, starting right now in this election cycle,” said Susie Petra, a retired teacher and CCI member from Ames, Iowa.

“It’s up to the people to fight this, and we call on everyday Iowans to stand up and make our voices heard.”

In 2012, only 646 Americans reached the 2012 cap, for a total of $93.4 million.

“The Supreme Court argued that the voices of a few hundred billionaires are worth more than the voices of 300 million Americans,” Petra added.

There are over 140 protests taking place in 38 states and Washington DC with a list available at: www.moneyout-votersin.org

Emergency rallies being held April 2 in Iowa are:

West Steps of the State Capitol in Des Moines

at 5:00 PM

Clinton and Iowa Avenue, east of the Old Capitol building Iowa City IA 52242

at 12:00 PM

2126 W 59th St Davenport IA 52806

at 5:00 PM

131 E 4th St Davenport IA 52801

at 5:00 PM

Federal Building, Cedar Rapids, IA

at 5:00pm