Iowa coalition to sue over manure spills

2013-12-05T10:36:00Z Iowa coalition to sue over manure spills Iowa Farmer Today
December 05, 2013 10:36 am

Acoalition of community, environmental and animal welfare organizations has sent a notice of intent to sue Illinois-based The Maschhoffs LLC over repeated discharges of hog manure to waterways from one of its Iowa factory farms.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) intend to file suit alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act unless the facility obtains a Clean Water Act permit, according to a news release.

The groups also want the company to guarantee that its almost 7,500-head Keosauqua sow facility will not discharge any further pollution into Iowa's waterways.

Iowa CCI is represented by The Environmental Integrity Project, and the Humane Society of the United States is represented by David Sykes of David E. Sykes P.C. in Fairfield and lawyers with the HSUS' animal protection litigation section.

The groups say they will file suit at the end of 60 days.

The Van Buren County sow facility near the Des Moines River is one of the largest factory farms in Iowa and annually produces more than 11 million gallons of manure that it spreads on fewer than 600 acres of surrounding land, according to the groups.

On Nov. 4, a clogged pipe in the facility's manure management system caused the discharge of thousands of gallons of waste into an on-site creek. The creek empties into a section of the Des Moines River that is listed as impaired due to biological pollutants.

The facility has a record of similar spills, the groups say. In 2011, another clogged pipe at the facility caused more than 9,000 gal. of manure to flow into the same creek.

And, in 2007, operators failed to move the center-pivot irrigator used to spray liquid waste on fields, leading to a discharge of about 6,000 gal. of manure into the creek.

THE DNR's most recent inspection of the facility was in August. The inspection resulted in a citation to the facility for recordkeeping errors, but the agency failed to require it to obtain a Clean Water Act permit, despite numerous warning signs, the groups say.

The inspection came shortly after Iowa recently entered into an agreement with the EPA to improve the Iowa DNR's regulation of the state's 8,500 large farms.

This agreement, which was spurred by a petition from Iowa CCI, EIP and the Iowa Sierra Club, includes mandatory Iowa DNR inspections to determine if a factory farm must acquire a permit under the Clean Water Act.

“IF THE Iowa Department of Natural Resources is so corrupt that they cannot adequately perform basic inspections and permitting of factory farm polluters, then Iowa CCI members and our allies are ready to do the job ourselves and not just through the courts,” said Garry Klicker, a Bloomfield family farmer and longtime Iowa CCI member.

“This legal action against Maschhoffs LLC will be backed up in full force with a dynamic organizing campaign to hold the DNR accountable and to force the factory farm industry to either play by stronger rules or get shut down."

IOWA CCI has a a five-county chapter in the region covering Appanoose, Davis, Jefferson, Van Buren and Wapello counties.

“It is no shock that almost 7,500 confined breeding pigs generate more than 11 million gal. of nutrient and pathogen-laden excrement annually,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS.

“The company's terrible track record when it comes to managing these dangerous waste products is deeply concerning given the damage the facility can do to the environment, waterways and both the animals it confines in tight cages and wildlife."

Tarah Heinzen, attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, who is representing Iowa CCI on this case, said, “The Maschhoffs Keosauqua sow facility and hog farms throughout Iowa contribute to widespread water pollution in the state and require strong, enforceable Clean Water Act permits.”

Iowa has documented more than 800 manure spills from farms, the groups claim. They say the Iowa DNR has acknowledged the expansion of the hog industry is the largest threat to the state's water quality.

However, Iowa DNR has never issued a Clean Water Act permit to a hog operation in the state, the groups say.

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