EPA has reached an agreement with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to make changes to Iowa’s Clean Water Act (CWA) permit and compliance program for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The agreement includes specific actions IDNR intends to take to remedy the program and a timeline for implementation of those actions to ensure clean, healthy water. Public comments, including feedback from the agricultural community, were taken into consideration in the drafting of the final agreement.
On July 12, 2012, EPA released a report outlining its initial findings, which identified issues in IDNR’s program that the state agency will need to correct. Among other findings, EPA found that IDNR does not have an adequate program to assess whether unpermitted CAFOs need NPDES permits. The findings also noted that IDNR must clarify its authority to issue NPDES permits to confinement (roofed) CAFOs that discharge. EPA also found that in a number of cases involving CWA violations, IDNR failed to take timely and adequate enforcement actions, and assess adequate penalties.
EPA’s investigation of Iowa’s permit and compliance program for CAFOs was carried out in response to a petition for withdrawal of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program authorization from IDNR that was filed in 2007 by several organizations.
In the agreement, IDNR has committed to:
- Conduct a comprehensive survey of all large CAFOs and medium animal feeding operations that currently don’t have CWA wastewater discharge permits and identify those that discharge to a water of the U.S. and have failed to comply with the permit application or other Iowa requirements. Size thresholds for each species define large and medium operations.
- Review all relevant available information to evaluate site specific factors that may signal the likelihood of a wastewater discharge to local waterways. This desktop assessment will document baseline conditions at a facility and determine whether an on-site inspection will be conducted.
- Conduct on-site inspections following agreed upon inspection procedures for all large CAFOs. For medium operations, on-site inspections will be conducted when certain site specific circumstances exist or the desktop assessment determines that an on-site inspection is needed.
- Inspect all permitted NPDES CAFOs within five years following an agreed upon inspection procedure.
- Issue timely wastewater discharge permits to all CAFOs determined to discharge to local waterways.
- Take timely and appropriate enforcement actions when needed, including assessing penalties that ensure violators do not gain competitive advantage from non-compliance.
- Change several provisions of Iowa’s CAFO rules so that Iowa state law is consistent with the federal CWA.