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.

 

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.