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DSM Water Works joins petition challenging EPA on “factory farm” pollution

Des Moines Water Works joins 33 advocacy organizations who filed a legal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The petition asks EPA to repair its regulations for how concentrated animal feeding operations or (CAFOs) are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act and its permitting program, noting current rules fail to prevent pollution and protect communities.

“This petition paves the way for EPA to finally regulate CAFOs as required under the Clean Water Act, and explains that allowing CAFO pollution to continue unabated by maintaining the woefully inadequate status quo would violate federal law,” Executive Director at Food & Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, said.

“The EPA is legally bound to protect communities from pollution, and we intend to hold the agency accountable for doing its job, Hauter said.”

The manure generated from CAFOs are typically disposed of, on cropland, where it can seep or run off to pollute waterways and drinking water sources.

“Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) supports the legal petition to the United States Environmental Protection Agency drafted by Food & Water Watch,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of the Des Moines Water Works.

Stowe explained, “Iowa is home to 21 million hogs; in fact, more than 1,800 animal feeding operations are located in the two watersheds from which DMWW draws its source water. Lenient laws and regulations have made Iowa a haven for corporate polluters. We join Food & Water Watch in calling upon the EPA to hold these polluters accountable by increased oversight and stronger permitting standards.”

Clean Water Act permits are supposed to require strict pollution controls, as well as monitoring and reporting of pollution discharges.

Due to EPA’s regulations, only a fraction of CAFOs have permits. The permits that do exist, are ineffective.

The petition asks EPA to remove loopholes that have enabled CAFOs to avoid permitting. It also asks the EPA to require large corporate integrator’s that control CAFO practices to obtain permits.

The petition further asks EPA to strengthen permits by requiring pollution monitoring and reporting, restricting waste disposal in order to better protect water quality; and regulating CAFO discharges of a wider range of pollutants.

Many livestock operators say regulations beyond what was passed would be a burden on the industry. Audubon hog farmer Randy Dreher says to NPR that he thinks there isn’t enough understanding of CAFOs.

“I really wish the people behind me who are kind of chastising, condemning what we do…actually would come to the farm, be there with a DNR visit and talk about the things we talk about so they understand the things we do every day. I think farmers are doing their job and agencies who oversee us are assisting in that process.”

Iowa petitioners include: Dallas County Farmers and Neighbors (Iowa), Des Moines Water Works, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Poweshiek Community Action to Restore Environmental Stewardship.