The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region VII issued a report in July, 2012, claiming Iowa is not properly regulating manure discharge permits and must fix its procedures or else!
Region VII issued a 40-page report with 15 appendices which make clear that Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources is not doing enough to regulate animal feedlots in Iowa! Other states are feeling EPA’s heat on this issue as well.
The report is a result of a petition filed with EPA seeking to have the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System authority under the Clean Water Act taken away from Iowa. If such authority should be withdrawn from IDNR, EPA’s Region VII would start issuing and enforcing CWA NPDES permits in Iowa.
The groups asking EPA to withdraw IDNR’s CWA authority include Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.
These petitioners claim that IDNR’s control of concentrated animal feeding operations does not meet requirements of the CWA. Petitioners say that IDNR statutes and regulations controlling discharges from Iowa feedlots are not "...sufficiently stringent, in that permits do not include certain requirements contained in federal CAFO regulations."
Petitioners also allege that Iowa fails to issue permits to CAFOs which are discharging into water of the state. They claim that IDNR does not operate “…an adequate CAFO enforcement program because [IDNR] fails to adequately investigate CWA violations and seek adequate penalties to deter noncompliance by the regulated community.”
The 40-page report entitled “Preliminary Results of an Informal Investigation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program For Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the State of Iowa” is a must-read for any CAFO operator in Iowa.
Petitioners made 31 allegations against IDNR’s regulation of CAFOs, and the report indicates 26 of the allegations have been resolved, but EPA did find Iowa is not issuing enough NPDES permits to CAFOs. EPA claims Iowa is not conducting comprehensive inspections so CAFO operators need to make sure they are ready for a surprise EPA inspection or an EPA flyover of the CAFO in order to spy on CAFO property. EPA also indicates it is doing “windshield inspections”.
Iowa, according to EPA, has “…failed to act, or did not follow its enforcement response policy when addressing CWA/NPDES permit violations.” Iowa CAFO operators had best prepare themselves for larger civil fines and/or criminal enforcement because EPA believes adequate penalties are not being assessed.
EPA also found that Iowa is not requiring sufficient setbacks on fields where land application is occurring. Iowa is simply not meeting federal requirements according to EPA.
Iowa received authority to administer EPA’s NPDES program in August, 1978. Iowa has issued approximately 1,600 CAFO NPDES permits and is allowing approximately 12,500 AFOs and CAFOs to discharge under a general permit, if there is a discharge which I suspect there is not.
EPA claims there are 2,000 open lot medium AFOs and 182 large open lot CAFOs of which only 98 are covered by individual NPDES permits. There are 3,152 medium confinement AFOs and 2,658 large CAFOs of which none are covered by an individual NPDES permit. These numbers, of course, infuriate both EPA and the petitioners. This is why EPA alleges that Iowa “…is not issuing NPDES permits to CAFOs when appropriate.”
EPA, on page 37 of its report, issued several preliminary findings that must be undertaken by Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources.
A couple are important. Finding No. 1, based on the numbers cited above is that “IDNR is not issuing NPDES permits to CAFOs when appropriate.” Region VII claims it just cannot conclude that Iowa is meeting its obligation to permit CAFOs that discharge and tells Iowa that it must develop adequate resources to undertake what appears to be a massive permitting program.
Finding no. 3 by EPA concludes that Iowa has failed to act or “…did not follow its enforcement response policy when addressing CWA/NPDES permit violations.” In other words, Iowa bureaucrats are simply not assessing adequate penalties either civil or criminal against CAFOs. Based on all of the criminal cases EPA is bringing against CAFOs, Iowa producers must be on notice that they are clearly within EPA’s target list.
EPA’s findings are preliminary. The threats of intimidation and enforcement are not preliminary and can have a very permanent impact on CAFOs not only in Iowa but all other states engaged in livestock production.