We’re Prepared to Sue

Des Moines, Iowa —Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund (Iowa CCI Action) today announced that they are prepared to file a legal complaint in Iowa court if five members of Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), who have a financial stake in the factory farm industry, vote on rules dictating when and why the Iowa Department of Natural Resources would issue Clean Water Act permits for factory farms.

As written, the rule leaves too much up to DNR discretion, and will result in “business as usual” at the DNR.

The five commissioners who have direct financial interests in factory farms that would be impacted by the rule are Gene Ver Steeg, Brent Rastetter, Max Smith, Nancy Couser, and Cindy Greiman.

Iowa CCI Action Fund members say the Clean Water Act rule should require that permits are issued to all factory farms and should include a “three strikes and you’re out” provision for habitual violators.

“We want to know – who is the DNR working for? Everyday Iowans and clean water, or the factory farm industry?” said Barb Kalbach, President of the Iowa CCI Action Fund, and a nurse and fourth generation family farmer from Dexter, IA.

Public comments supporting a strong rule outweighed support for DNR’s weak draft rule 4,818 to 147. In the past eight weeks, another 4,000 comments calling for a stronger rule and clean water have been collected.

“The DNR and EPC have refused to strengthen the rule, in spite of overwhelming support for cracking down on manure pollution and cleaning up Iowa’s water.” said Kalbach. “If they pass this weak rule as is, we will take our case to court.”

“This lawsuit seeks to invalidate a vote by a commission which consists of individuals who clearly have a vested financial interest in the proposals before them,” said Joseph C. Glazebrook of Glazebrook, Moe, Johnston, & Hurd, LLP, Iowa CCI Action’s attorney.  “We believe that when the executive branch of government fails to protect the general public from this type of harm, it is up to the courts to make sure the people’s interests are best served by state government.” 

There have been at least 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.

Des Moines Water Works reported ammonia problems this spring that the water utility says “often” comes from “livestock operations” and “manure-fertilized fields”. Last year, Des Moines Water Works spent nearly $1 million removing nitrates from drinking water drawn from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with nearly one thousand of the state’s 8,500 factory farms being built since January 1, 2012. Iowa’s 21 million hogs produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year – the equivalent of 45 million people, or more than 15 times the amount of people living in Iowa.

Contact: Adam Mason, State Policy Organizing Director

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund

515.282.0484. adam(at)iowacci.org


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