Currently, the EPA authorizes the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) through Clean Water Act permits. However, the Environmental Integrity Group, Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement have petitioned the EPA to revoke Iowa DNR’s authority for failing to regulate CAFO’s under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The groups filed a notice of intent to sue in light of the EPA’s failure to respond to the groups’ similar 2007 petition. The groups allege that Iowa DNR has not appropriately regulated CAFO wastewater discharges in Iowa and point out the record number of polluted waterways and over 700 manure spills, including two recent manure spills resulting in significant fish kills. (per CCI member, Lori Nelson; quoted and reported by Perry Beeman of the Des Moines Register, full article found here) The groups desire the EPA to force Iowa DNR’s CAFO regulations into CWA compliance or revoke Iowa’s authority to regulate CAFO’s; leaving the regulation in the hands of the federal agency.
In response, the Iowa DNR believes that the state program is effective and CWA permits are redundant since Iowa law strictly prohibits wastewater discharges into waterways. Furthermore, recent court decisions have found that CAFOs are not required to obtain permits prior to discharge. Therefore, requiring CWA permits prior to discharge may be unenforceable. For more information check out James Lynch’s article in the Globe Gazette found at this link.
In the end, the environmental groups are not going to stop pushing for more aggressive wastewater regulations and enforcement of the CWA. Therefore, CAFO managers will need to keep up-to-date with ever-changing requirements, whether regulated by the Iowa DNR or the EPA.