MANURE SPILLS IN IOWA UP 65% OVER PRIOR YEAR
Feb. 5, 2014
Des Moines Register reports:
A commissioner on a state environmental board caused one of 76 manure spills in Iowa last year, a statistic one activist group is using to call for stricter regulations for large animal confinements.
The number of spills last year is a 65 percent jump from 2012, when 46 spills occurred.
On Monday, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement used this increase to call on the state to implement more oversight over livestock producers.
A nonprofit activist group, CCI has continuously pushed for state regulators to adopt more stringent standards laid out in the federal Clean Water Act. The act would require farms to receive a permit if they wish to discharge waste into navigable waters.
CCI specifically cited a spill that involved Gene Ver Steeg, a commissioner on the state Environmental Protection Commission.
Ver Steeg has been a member of the commission since 2008 and has previously served as the president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. He has four farms in northwest Iowa that produce about 20,000 hogs each year.
While hauling liquid manure on the morning of Nov. 13, Ver Steeg spilled about 1,500 gallons of manure along 260th Street in Lyon County, according to the department's records.
The records state that Ver Steeg was hauling the manure to another farm while it was still dark and thought everything was sealed. He later noticed that something had leaked along a mile and a half of road. The county cleaned and scraped most of the waste off of the street and the fire department later washed off the rest.
Ver Steeg confirmed that account to the Register on Monday and said the department did not fine him.
"This certainly wasn't a catastrophe. It was illegal, I did report it, and DNR could have fined me, but they didn't," Ver Steeg said, adding that the department is usually more lenient if the spill is an accident and is cleaned up properly.
Cindy Martens, the senior environmental specialist for the department's Spencer field office, said fines are typically issued if a spill reaches water or hurts wildlife, such as fish. If the spill only affected the road and was reported and cleaned up quickly, she said it is unlikely the department issued a fine.
While CCI said DNR has agreed to enforce the Clean Water Act, the department has not issued any permits to hog farms. Ten of last year's spills hit Iowa waterways, according to the department's records.
"Every factory farm in Iowa is a ticking time bomb that could have a spill at anytime, and the DNR needs to start holding them accountable for polluting our waterways by issuing them Clean Water Act permits so they have to follow stronger environmental standards," said Lori Nelson, CCI board president, in a statement.
Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the department, said DNR has not issued any permits allowing farmers to discharge waste into water because state law prohibits them from doing so. Instead, he said farmers have to either bring the manure to a specified facility or spread it on land to use as fertilizer.
"The stance of Iowa has always been, if they're prohibited from discharging, why would you issue a permit for them to discharge?" Baskins said.
Baskins also said that the department has worked "in good faith" with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.