Groups claim Iowa DNR violates rules on factory farms

DES MOINES - Environmental groups on Thursday asked the federal government to revoke Iowa's oversight of factory farms, arguing that the nation's largest hog producing state hasn't enforced rules limiting release of pollution into waterways.
calendar icon 21 September 2007
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Iowa produces about 25 million hogs a year, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association. The Environmental Protection Agency filed a petition accusing the state of allowing the industry to illegally discharge millions of gallons of manure into rivers and streams, killing fish and hurting water quality. "If the state will not properly enforce and implement the Clean Water Act in Iowa, then the state should no longer be allowed to administer the program. That is why we want the EPA to take over the administration of the program in Iowa," Pam Mackey-Taylor, chairwoman of the Sierra Club's Iowa Chapter, said at a news conference held outside offices of the state Department of Natural Resources.

The main claim of the environmental groups -- the Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement -- is that the Department of Natural Resources fails to issue operating permits required by federal law to concentrated animal feeding operations that discharge waste. This affects primarily hog producers, but also Iowa cattle and egg producers.

The petition also argues that Iowa laws don't meet minimum standards in the Clean Water Act.

"This is not just about IDNR, this is about the fact that the Legislature has hamstrung the entire state by passing regulations that are clearly contrary to the Clean Water Act," said Karla Raettig, who helped draft the petition as counsel at the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources responded that the state requires open feed lots with more than 1,000 animals to have a permit if they discharge waste when there is 5.5 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Smaller lots may also voluntarily apply for a permit. Of the 1,800 registered feed lots in Iowa, 124 have state discharge permits. Six permits are pending.

In addition, the agency has a zero-discharge policy for confinement operations. It's only if a confinement violates the rule, that it may be required by the DNR to apply for a discharge permit.

Source: Sioux City Journal
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