CCI members say trend shows DNR should be issuing all factory farms Clean Water Act permits

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) are calling on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use a recently implemented rule and begin issuing Clean Water Act (CWA) permits to factory farms in Iowa. Highlighting the urgent need for these permits are recent spills, including two which occurred within hours of each other on November 12, dumping at least 3,800 gallons of untreated toxic liquid manure.

LDR Farms LTD, located near Harper and owned by Dennis Striegel, spilled 1,800 gallons of toxic liquid manure into an unnamed creek that is a tributary of the Clear Creek which is a tributary of the Skunk River.  DNR took water samples from the unnamed creek on Thursday and found high ammonia levels.  Portions of the Skunk River in Keokuk County are already heavily polluted and on Iowa’s impaired waterways list.  DNR records show that this factory farm had not been inspected since September 2, 2004.

The other factory farm, owned by Iowa Select Farms, the seventh largest pork corporation in the country, and Dwain Bankson, spilled 1,500 – 2,000 gallons of toxic liquid manure according to DNR estimates.

“The Iowa DNR isn’t issuing fines and penalties to these polluters, they’re not using the new Clean Water Act rule to issue permits to polluters. Given the track record of the DNR on this, we have to assume they are working for the polluters.” Said Larry Ginter, family farmer from Rhodes, IA. “When is the DNR actually going to do anything about Iowa’s growing water crisis?  We’re sick and tired of seeing manure spills and the DNR letting corporate factory farm industry get away with it.”

Since January 1, 2013 there have been at least 102 documented manure spills, with 21 of those manure spills reaching Iowa’s waters. 

“The only way we can start cleaning up Iowa’s waters is holding polluters accountable.” Said Ginter. “That means Clean Water Act permits for all factory farms; tough fines and penalties for polluters; and inspections that find problems and fix problems.  If the DNR won’t do it on its own, the public is going to have to make them.”

CCI members will be mobilizing members Tuesday and Wednesday to stand up for clean water. They plan to meet with Bill Stowe on Tuesday, November 18, from 11:30 – 12:30 at Iowa CCI headquarters to strategize the next steps in their campaign, as well as discussing trends they are seeing regarding manure spills across Iowa that include:

  • failing/broken equipment – problems that cannot be inspected through a DNR desk-top/Google Earth inspection
  • absentee owners – spills that seem to occur when no one is around and are not found until after the manure reaches water
  • lack of enforcement – DNR only giving fines and issuing penalties to manure spills that kill fish
  • lack of good inspections – spills occurring at sites that hadn’t had an inspection in years or had received a passing inspection shortly before the spill

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.

 

 

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.

Iowa Supreme Court Rules Against Farm Bureau In “Viewpoint Bias” Case: EPC Commissioners Under Fire For Conflict of Interest 

Iowa Supreme Court Case Farm Bureau vs Susan Heathcote clarifies “viewpoint bias” but leaves open question of direct and immediate financial interest charge levied at Branstad appointees to EPC by Iowa CCI, Des Moines Water Works

The Iowa Supreme Court’s dismissal of a Farm Bureau lawsuit against a former Environmental Protection Commission member clarifies the meaning of “viewpoint bias” by a public official but still leaves open the question of direct and immediate financial interest that Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) and Des Moines Water Works have levied during their Clean Water Act fight against gubernatorial appointees to the EPC like former Pork Producer president Gene Ver Steeg and agribusiness executive and political donor Brent Rastetter.

“We believe EPC commissioners like Brent Rastetter, Gene Ver Steeg, and others must recuse themselves from voting on draft Clean Water Act rules for factory farm manure polluters because the rules will directly and immediately impact their financial bottom-line and therefore lead to the appearance of impropriety and a clear-cut conflict of interest,” said Pat Bowen, an Iowa CCI board member from Iowa City.

“The Supreme Court today ruled on a case surrounding a legal definition of “viewpoint bias”, but the court did not address the issue of direct and immediate financial interest when voting on a proposed environmental rule, as we have alleged against five EPC commissioners.”

Iowa CCI members have criticized Governor Branstad, Department of Natural Resources director Chuck Gipp, and the EPC commissioners for supporting a weak, watered-down Clean Water Act rule that the statewide people’s action group says doesn’t go far enough to crack down on factory farm manure pollution.  The group says the rule should be strengthened to include mandatory permits and tougher environmental standards for every factory farm, as well as a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy for habitual violators and stronger water quality standards such as a prohibition on manure application on nitrogen-fixing crops and snow and frozen-covered ground.

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 728 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.   

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.   

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.

Cargill’s Ottumwa Plant Had Long Pattern of Clean Water Act Violations and Other Noncompliance Problems Before 20,000 Gallon Spill Earlier This Week

Both the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) have documented previous Clean Water Act violations but failed to crack down to prevent water pollution impact on Des Moines River

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members in Southeast Iowa say that state and federal records show a troubling pattern of Clean Water Act violations and other non-compliance issues going back years at a Cargill meatpacking plant in Ottumwa that spilled 20,000 gallons of toxic waste into a sewer line running into the Des Moines river earlier this week.

The plant slaughters 18,500 hogs a day, but has plans to expand to processing more than 26,000 hogs per day, and its process waste water is a giant mixture of blood, guts, manure, chemicals, and other toxins.  An online database maintained by the EPA, available at:  http://echo.epa.gov/detailed_facility_report?fid=110000415220, shows that the meatpacking plant has routinely either out of compliance with the conditions of its Clean Water Act permit, or is failing to self-report its monthly testing results, since October of 2010, including 8 out of the last 12 quarters.

The violations are frequently for exceeding nitrogen, ammonia, Ph, and chlorine limitations in the process wastewater the plant discharges into the Des Moines River.  For example, during one 3-month reporting period from January to March 2013, Cargill’s Ottumwa plant exceeded nitrogen and ammonia levels by 240% in its treated waste water.

The Iowa DNR issued a Notice of Violation letter for exceeding Clean Water act limitations on April 19, 2011.

Failure to report monthly test results may indicate larger problems at the plant, which was briefly shut down last month due to a break in a nearby municipal water main. The spill March 3 occurred when a frozen backup pipe broke after a main system failure.

Iowa CCI members fighting three proposed factory farms near the Appanoose and Davis County line say that Monday’s 20,000 gallon spill into the Des Moines River is more proof that Southeast Iowa doesn’t need any more factory farms and out-of-state corporate agribusinesses polluting Iowa waterways.

“If Cargill can’t handle the amount of hogs they are slaughtering now without spilling toxic waste and polluting our water, then they shouldn’t be allowed to build more factory farms and accelerate production on the kill floor when that will only make the problem worse,” said Jim Ealy, an Iowa CCI member from Unionville who has organized dozens of members of his rural neighborhood community to stand up and fight back against Cargill’s proposed new factory farms.

Ealy and other local-area CCI members have protested twice at Cargill’s Ottumwa plant in the last 8 weeks, including at the on-site offices of Cargill subsidiary, Parks Finishing.  The group has also held large-group meetings with the Davis County supervisors and the Iowa DNR.  Community members have also met with local-area legislators at community forums in Ottumwa and at the state capitol in Des Moines.

Last week, the Cargill facility in nearby Eddyville spread thousands of gallons of Ag-lime by-product and waste water onto a snow-covered farm field, which will likely runoff when temperatures rise later this week alongside potential rain, but DNR and Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship officials say the application of process waste onto snow-covered fields was legal, even though Cargill’s Eddyville facility did not have a current, up-to-date certification to apply this waste product on farm ground.

In November of 2013, a Maschhoff Pork Sow Unit outside of Keosauqua in Van Buren county also had a manure spill of several thousand gallons into a tributary of the Des Moines river.  Maschhoff agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and make significant engineering changes to their facility in an attempt to avoid a citizen lawsuit under the federal Clean Water Act by Iowa CCI members and allies the Environmental Integrity Project and the Humane Society.

“There’s no question factory farms pose a huge threat to our air, water, and quality of life and there have been several impacts to the Des Moines in the last few months that highlight just how dangerous factory farms really are,” Ealy said.

“We call on the DNR and EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act, hold Cargill accountable for this spill, and crack down on factory farm pollution.  We also call on Cargill and Parks Finishing to cancel their plans to build more factory farms in Southeast Iowa,” Ealy continued.

There have been more than 600 documented manure spills since 2003 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways.  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.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with more than 900 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 5 and 10 billion gallons of toxic manure every year.