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November 21, 2013

Coalition Notifies Iowa Factory Farm of Intent to File Clean Water Act Lawsuit over Repeated Manure Spills

Large Sow Breeding Operation Continues to Have No Clean Water Act Permit Despite Repeated Illegal Spills

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Environmental Integrity Project

A coalition of community, environmental and animal welfare organizations sent a notice of intent to sue Illinois-based The Maschhoffs, LLC over repeated discharges of hog manure to waterways from one of its Iowa factory farms.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the Humane Society of the United States intend to file suit alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act unless the facility obtains a Clean Water Act permit and the company can guarantee that its almost 7,500-head Keosauqua Sow facility will not discharge any further pollution into Iowa’s waterways.

Iowa CCI is represented by The Environmental Integrity Project, and the Humane Society of the United States is represented by David Sykes of David E. Sykes, P.C. in Fairfield Iowa and lawyers with the HSUS’ animal protection litigation section. The groups will file suit at the end of sixty days.

The sow facility, located in Van Buren County, Iowa near the Des Moines River, is one of the largest factory farms in Iowa, and annually produces more than 11 million gallons of toxic manure that it spreads on less than 600 acres of surrounding land. On November 4, a clogged pipe in the facility’s manure management system caused the discharge of thousands of gallons of waste into an on-site creek. The creek empties into a section of the Des Moines River that is listed as impaired due to biological pollutants.

The facility has a record of similar spills. For example, in 2011, another clogged pipe at the facility caused more than 9,000 gallons of manure to flow into the same creek. And in 2007, operators failed to move the center-pivot irrigator used to spray liquid waste on fields, leading to a discharge of approximately 6,000 gallons of manure into the creek.

The Department of Natural Resources’ most recent inspection of the facility was in August of this year. The inspection resulted in a citation to the facility for record keeping errors, but the agency failed to require it to obtain a Clean Water Act permit, despite numerous warning signs. The inspection came shortly after Iowa recently entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve the Iowa DNR’s inadequate regulation of the state’s 8,500 factory farms. This agreement, which was spurred by a petition from Iowa CCI, EIP and the Iowa Sierra Club, includes mandatory Iowa DNR inspections to determine if a factory farm must acquire a permit under the Clean Water Act.

Garry Klicker, an independent family farmer and longtime Iowa CCI member from Bloomfield in Davis County, said, “If the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is so corrupt that they cannot adequately perform basic inspections and permitting of factory farm polluters, then Iowa CCI members and our allies are ready to do the job ourselves, and not just through the courts. This legal action against Maschhoffs LLC will be backed up in full force with a dynamic organizing campaign to hold the DNR accountable, and to force the factory farm industry to either play by stronger rules or get shut down.”

Iowa CCI has a long history of organizing in Southeast Iowa and has a five-county chapter in the region covering Appanoose, Davis, Jefferson, Van Buren and Wapello counties.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS said, “It is no shock that almost 7,500 confined breeding pigs generate more than 11 million gallons of nutrient and pathogen-laden excrement annually. The company’s terrible track record when it comes to managing these dangerous waste products is deeply concerning given the damage the facility can do to the environment, waterways and both the animals it confines in tight cages and wildlife.”

Tarah Heinzen, attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, who is representing Iowa CCI on this case said, “The Maschhoffs Keosauqua sow facility and factory farms throughout Iowa contribute to widespread water pollution in the state, and require strong, enforceable Clean Water Act permits.”

Iowa has documented more than 800 illegal manure spills from factory farms and the Iowa DNR has acknowledged that the expansion of the hog industry is the largest threat to the state’s water quality. However, Iowa DNR has never issued a Clean Water Act permit to a hog factory in the state.

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