Clean Water Act Rumblings in Iowa and a New Animated Video Sponsored by a Restaurant May Raise Eyebrows

On August 18, 2011, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club served the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a notice of intent (NOI) to sue.  Currently, the state of Iowa has permitting authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA), but the three groups are demanding a response to their September 20, 2007, petition for withdrawal of CWA permitting authority.

According to the EIP’s website, “The 2007 petition made the case that Iowa has failed to meet minimum Clean Water Act requirements by allowing hog factories and other Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations to pollute Iowa’s water unchecked, and that EPA should step in to take back the state’s permitting authority if it does not come into compliance.”

EIP Attorney Tarah Heinzen said, “Despite hundreds of illegal manure spills and devastating fish kills, Iowa DNR continues to blatantly ignore federal law and refuses to regulate factory farms. EPA’s nearly four-year delay in addressing our petition is unreasonable and unlawful…”

Many environmental groups across the United States believe large livestock operations, and CAFOs in particular, should be more closely regulated under the CWA. As a point of reference, some of the agriculture-specific programs that fall under the authority of the CWA include National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) Plans, and Total Maximum Daily Load (a prevalent issue on the East Coast).

The CWA, and more specifically, enforcement under the CWA can be “very serious business,” and this enforcement isn’t just on “smoke stack industries.”  In fact, on the EPA’s website, they offer “Some examples of positive environmental results and improvements achieved through settlements in Water enforcement (emphasis added).”

Iowa Beef Packers, Inc:  The company also agreed to pay a $4.1 million penalty and to perform Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) valued at $3.4 million.

Premium Standards Farms (PSF): The company is required to test lagoons for leakage, monitor air emissions, and pay penalties. PSF has agreed to pay a $350,000 civil penalty (besides $650,000 previously paid to the state of Missouri), and spend, according to EPA estimates, as much as $50 million to develop and install cleaner wastewater treatment technologies never before used in large-scale farm operations.

WalMart: The settlement commits WalMart Stores to a comprehensive environmental management plan (valued at $4.5 million) to increase compliance at each of the store’s construction sites nationwide through additional inspections, training and recordkeeping, and requires the company to pay a $1 million penalty.

Amtrak: Amtrak agreed to establish a company-wide environmental management system (valued at $11 million), pay a $500,000 penalty, and spend $900,000 on environmental projects.

“Positive results” are, perhaps, in the eye of the beholder.

The Clean Water Act, whether administered by the state or the EPA, has wide-reaching applicability and understanding how it does or does not affect you and your operation may be very important.


Finally, Chipotle has always been transparent in their “eco-friendly” views.  On their website they state, “Industrial ranching and factory farming produce tons of waste while depleting the soil of nutrients. These seem like bad things to us. So we work hard to source our ingredients in ways that protect this little planet of ours.”

So perhaps the recently Chipotle-sponsored video  shouldn’t be a surprise.  But does this video support small farms or does it take a shot at CAFOs?  You decide



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