“Just wait until your father gets home!” are the dreaded words my friends and I probably feared most growing up. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) proverbial father, the EPA, recently came home and threatened to punish the IDNR for failing to properly enforce the Clean Water Act (CWA) against livestock facilities.
As discussed in my August 2011 blog, several environmental groups have claimed the IDNR has not been appropriately regulating CAFO wastewater discharges in Iowa. The EPA finally responded to the environmental groups’ 2007 petition and gave the IDNR 60 days to come up with a plan to fix problems with inspection programs and permit enforcement. Although staff reductions have limited the IDNR’s ability to assess permit needs and enforce compliance, the EPA found “Iowa had failed to act in nearly half of the water quality violation cases against cattle farms the EPA reviewed.” David Pitt Real Clear Politics.
In response, the IDNR has resolved 26 of the 31 allegations found in the EPA’s July 2012 report. The IDNR pointed to the fact that Iowa has identified and obtained NPDES permits for all large CAFO’s, which will be inspected every five years. Furthermore, the IDNR has agreed to address the remaining 5 concerns and has been adding staff to more effectively employ the compliance program. David Hendee: Omaha World Herald.
The EPA will eventually decide whether Iowa’s plan sufficiently addresses the concerns of the report. If not, the EPA may revoke the state’s authority to enforce the CWA, which would be an unusual and harsh punishment to say the least. No matter how the EPA dishes out the punishment, Iowa’s CAFO operators can expect more agency involvement and oversight.