Branstad’s toxic blue-green algae problem

What Will Governor Branstad and His Political Appointees Do To Stop Toxic Blue-Green Algae Blooms?

Stronger Clean Water Act rules to crack down on factory farm manure pollution could make measurable difference in water quality crisis


As blue green algae blooms spread across the country and Iowa’s public beaches close, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund members are asking what Governor Terry Branstad and his political appointees at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Commissions are doing to solve Iowa’s water quality crisis.

Governor Branstad is running a re-election campaign based largely around what he claims are his long track record of successes.  But he has so far failed to acknowledge the water quality crisis that has continued to deteriorate during his years in office, nor has he articulated what he would do in the future to fix the problem.

“The cold, hard truth is that Governor Branstad, DNR Director Chuck Gipp, and EPC commissioners like Brent Rastetter, Gene Ver Steeg, and Nancy Couser continue to pretend there isn’t a problem,” said Barb Kalbach, a Dexter farmer and the CCI Action Fund board president.

“They’re following the money, not the facts.  The voluntary nutrient reduction strategy isn’t working.  We need mandatory, enforceable standards and strong, effective public oversight.”

The statewide people’s action group is pushing the DNR and EPC to pass stronger Clean Water Act rules regulating factory farm polluters.  A vote is expected August 19, but CCI members have criticized the draft rules as weak.

“Strong clean water rules that force factory farms to play by tougher environmental standards, find and fix problems before pollution occurs, strictly penalize violators, and shut down repeat offenders could make a real difference,” Kalbach continued.  “Stronger rules would also increase setback distances and ban high-risk forms of manure application.”

There have been more than 728 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways, according to DNR records.  Some researchers have found that manure from factory farm lagoons is leaking at more than twice the rate allowed by law, and it’s anyone’s guess how many times rainwater, floods, or melting snow have run freshly spread liquid manure off of farmland and into rivers, lakes, and streams.

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 21 million hogs produce nearly 10 billion gallons of toxic manure every year.

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