Iowa CCI members, residents in Clay and Wayne counties celebrate and demand moratorium on new factories
Des Moines, Iowa – On Monday, Iowa CCI members and everyday Iowans celebrated as Iowa Select — the largest hog corporation in Iowa and 8th largest nationally — withdrew permit applications for two massive hog factories in Wayne and Clay counties. Both applications, which were overwhelmingly opposed by local residents and county supervisors, were likely to be appealed at the October meeting of the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).

Locally organized opposition

Residents of Wayne County organized opposition, including a meeting with DNR director Chuck Gipp where over 100 neighbors demanded DNR deny the site, wrote letters to the editor, and successfully convinced their county supervisors to fail the Master Matrix and recommend denial to the DNR.  The DNR overturned the Wayne County Supervisors’ decision.  Wayne County appealed DNR’s approval of the factory farm, and a public hearing before the EPC was scheduled in October.

“We’re celebrating this big victory, but we know that Iowa Select will try to reapply.  We are relentless, and we’ll be ready.  We don’t want any factory farms and we will fight any that Iowa Select proposes to build,” said Pam Woollis, CCI member and resident of Wayne County.

In Clay County, local residents also organized, gathered petition signatures, and convinced their supervisors to recommend denial of the site, which again was overturned by the DNR.  Clay County’s Board of Supervisors was set to vote on appealing DNR’s approval of the factory farm at its meeting today.

“We are overjoyed at Iowa Select’s decision to not build their large hog factory beside our family. However, more importantly, the health of other farm familes and small towns is endangered by Iowa’s lack of regulations to protect the public health and our air and water,” said Sarah Lewis, who fought the 5,000-head factory farm near Spencer, Iowa. “We encourage our Supervisors to make Clay County the 18th Iowa county to call for a moratorium or changes to the Master Matrix until adequate regulations are implemented to protect our environment and familes.”

Iowa Select avoids scrutiny

“In its written notice to the Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Select cited several reasons for withdrawing, but we believe it’s because they are feeling public pressure and know that these appeals would further illustrate the failings of the Master Matrix,” said Erica Blair, community organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI).

According to DNR’s construction review activity database, Iowa Select has seven pending facilities across the state in Grundy, Hancock, Hardin, Humboldt, Buena Vista, and Greene counties.  CCI has received calls from residents of several of these counties asking how they can fight the incoming factory farms.

Iowa Select has a long violation history, including at least 150 manure or ammonia releases polluting air and water, according to DNR’s facility spill database.

“Iowa Select creates new LLCs, allowing the company to avoid scrutiny of past violations, making it difficult to know the true number of spills and violations,” said Patti Naylor, a CCI member and family farmer who lives in Greene County, where supervisors just approved a 7,490-head Iowa Select factory farm.  “They’ve become experts at using the Master Matrix to their own advantage.”

This news comes as many scandals are coming to the surface for DNR.  CCI members point to the EPC and DNR’s dismissal of the Master Matrix petition, former DNR employee Gene Tinker’s claim that he was fired for educating counties about the Master Matrix, and DNR’s discovery of over 5,000 additional factory farms in Iowa.

“It’s clear that we need a moratorium from this polluting industry. Our DNR, legislature, and Governor need to work for all of Iowans,” added Naylor.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement 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 has been fighting to put people first for over 40 years. Follow us on Twitter at @iowacci.

Iowa CCI members have been saying that factory farms are polluting our water.  Iowa’s Northern District US Attorney took notice and filed a lawsuit against a factory farm polluter.  Read the full press release here.

 

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.

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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.

 

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.

 

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

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.