DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) successfully referred a case of alleged poultry wastewater dumping to the state’s Attorney General’s office. The DNR is seeking stiffer penalties for a fish kill the agency said resulted from the wastewater spill.

The DNR said Sunrise Farms Inc., an egg laying facility in Harris, Iowa, illegally dumped poultry wastewater and contaminated a local stream, leading to a fish kill. Speaking to the Des Moines Register, the attorney for Sunrise Farm said last year’s outbreak of avian influenza was an underlying issue, but not an excuse for the incident.

The incident occurred in October 2015. The DNR responded to reports of a fish kill in Stony Creek near Everly, Iowa. The spill killed 163,000 fish, including more than 700 sport fish, along a stretch of 18.2 miles of Stony Creek. DNR sampling along several points in the stream tested positive for high levels of ammonia.

The DNR traced the spill back to Sunrise Farm, and later determined that an unknown amount of egg washing liquid was dumped in a corn field and flowed into a tributary of Stony Creek. The agency estimated damages at $25,806.

The DNR cited Sunrise Farm with discharge of a pollutant to a water of the state; operation of a wastewater disposal system contrary to the conditions of a permit; and discharge causing a violation of general water quality criteria. Sunrise Farms also was cited for failing to obtain a construction permit prior to building two additional poultry houses. The company paid restitution for the fish kill, the Des Moines Register reported.

Sunrise Farms was among the first poultry operations to be affected by the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza that resulted in the loss of 34 million birds, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported. Thirty-five commercial turkey flocks, 22 commercial egg production flocks and 13 pullet flocks were among the affected premises.

Sunrise Farms has 23 laying facilities in Harris, Iowa with capacity for 8 million layer hens, and another facility in Sibley, Iowa with four laying facilities with capacity for 520,000 hens, according to DNR documents.