CAFO Dumps Manure Into Wapsi River After DNR Refuses To Issue Permit

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.