One year after EPA demands compliance, DNR continues to obstruct Clean Water Act implementation

Here at CCI, we’ve long known that the Department of Natural Resources is failing at its job of protecting Iowa’s lakes, rivers, and streams. We know that more and more factory farm manure is filling our waterways every year, in direct violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Last summer, our decades-long fight for the DNR to enforce environmental protections got a huge boost when the federal Environmental Protection Agency concluded an investigation, prompted by a petition filed by CCI members, into the DNR’s factory farm inspection program.

The EPA report confirmed what CCI members have been saying all along: the DNR is not enforcing the Clean Water Act. Specifically, the EPA found that the DNR:

  • Has an inadequate factory farm inspection program
  • Frequently fails to respond to manure spills and other violations
  • Fails to assess adequate fines when it does respond to violations
  • Had setback and other requirements that did not meet federal minimums

And perhaps most importantly, they confirmed that the DNR fails to issue NPDES permits to factory farms. These permits are the way that the Clean Water Act is enforced — any potential polluter needs one, so state environmental authorities can ensure that the operation is not polluting above safe levels.

The EPA report was a huge victory — but unfortunately the follow-up hasn’t measured up. 

The EPA issued their report 1 year ago on July 12th. On September 11th, they released a workplan of steps the DNR needed to take to address the massive problems with their factory farm inspection and enforcement programs. The workplan was an agreement between the EPA and the DNR that the DNR would:

  • Initiate new rulemaking beginning November 1, 2012 to bring Iowa into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act
  • Ask the state legislature for more funding to hire 13 new full-time field staff
  • Develop a plan to inspect every factory farm in the state of Iowa
  • Change their protocols to respond to all violations and issue adequate fines

This workplan would have been a big step towards cracking down on factory farm pollution in Iowa. But in keeping with their history of kowtowing to corporate ag, the DNR refused to sign this agreement.

And so the EPA issued another draft workplan in March of this year. This workplan was watered down in many crucial ways, pushing back all of the deadlines and changing the strong wording of the first workplan to ambiguous terminology. For instance, this draft gave the DNR until the end of 2018 just to inspect all large and medium factory farms in Iowa — only the first step towards issuing NPDES permits to those operations. Further, unlike the first workplan, it does not specifically state that the DNR must perform on-site inspections of all factory farms in Iowa, only “comprehensive surveys.”

But the DNR has still refused to sign even this weak agreement. It has now been almost a full year since the EPA published its report, and no action has been taken. That’s twelve more months of degradation to Iowa’s waters while the DNR stonewalls implementation of the Clean Water Act. Thankfully, CCI members are keeping the pressure on both the DNR and the EPA with our Summer of Clean Water campaign. It took us six years to get to this point — we’re not going anywhere until Iowa finally comes into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

To read the summary report of the DNR’s obstruction of Clean Water Act implementation, click here.

To read a timeline of Iowa’s failure to comply with the Clean Water Act, click here.


Join the Fight!

2013 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year in the fightback against factory farming. Already, we’ve seen the corporate ag industry push bad bills at the statehouse, setting our state up for another influx of corporate hog manure. We need your help in fighting back, and here are four easy ways you can join the fight: