KANSAS CITY, Kan. – An informal investigation of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) permit program for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) revealed several “correctable deficiencies”, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which conducted the investigation.

Among the issues EPA uncovered:

• IDNR does not have an adequate program to assess whether unpermitted CAFOs need National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

• A number of cases involving Clean Water Act violations in which IDNR did not take timely and adequate enforcement actions as assess adequate penalties.

“Although today’s report highlights areas for improvement, IDNR has made substantial strides in identifying large open feedlots and requiring those operators to apply for permits,” said Karl Brooks, EPA Region 7 administrator. “As a national leader in beef, swine and poultry production, with roughly 7,000 animal feeding operations, it is imperative that Iowa have an NPDES permitting, compliance and enforcement program that complies with federal law and protects the quality of Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams.”

Wally Taylor, legal chair of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, said that “EPA correctly concluded that an effective program will include the need for more significant penalties for CAFOs that discharge pollutants without a permit.

“Penalties must be more than just a cost of doing business," he added.

EPA’s investigation came in response to a petition for withdrawal of Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ NPDES program authorization. The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project filed the petition in 2007. Federal regulations allow these petitions when interested parties are concerned that a state is not meeting minimum NPDES program requirements, according to EPA.

“EPA’s investigation affirms that when factory farms pollute Iowa rivers and streams, the state looks the other way instead of enforcing the Clean Water Act,” said Tarah Heinzen, attorney with Environmental Integrity Project. “EPA’s findings are a critical first step, but the real work of fixing Iowa’s broken factory farm program and restoring water quality is just beginning.”

EPA said it would work the state agency to correct the problems and has asked IDNR to provide a written response to the initial report within 60 days, EPA said. 

Click here to read the report containing EPA’s initial findings.