Clean Water Rules Update


According to federal law, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is supposed to protect Iowa’s water by enforcing the federal Clean Water Act for factory farms. However, the DNR has failed to do this – for almost 30 years!

Now the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the DNR has to start implementing the Clean Water Act by April of 2005. So what is the DNR planning to do differently? Not much – the DNR wants to maintain the status quo!

We know what the status quo has gotten us...

·        In the past 10 years, there have been over 300 fish kills caused by manure spills!

·        In October and November 2004 alone, there were 22 manure spills in Iowa and most were from factory farms.


The Federal Clean Water Act requires all livestock confinements with 1,000 animal units or more and open feedlots with 1,000 animal units or more (2,500 hogs or 1,000 beef cattle) to obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit – also known as an operating permit. Smaller facilities with histories of discharges must also obtain an NPDES permit.

Why are operating permit important? 

§         Operating permits allow the DNR to include tougher requirements dependent on the facility.

§         Operating permits give the DNR a way to say no to a facility in order to protect water quality.

§         Operating permits allow citizens to sue the state to enforce the rules.

§         Operating permits have to be renewed every five years. So, if a factory farm violates its permit, the facility may not be able to renew their permit and could be forced to shut down.


However, in order for these permits to really make a difference, the DNR needs to issue individual and/or watershed based permits rather than a one-size fits all permit.     

Right now the DNR plans to create a general “one-size-fits-all” permit - the weakest type of permit – rather than doing tougher individual based permits with strong requirements.

 In order to make the clean water rules meaningful the following changes need to be made:

·        Permits need to be individual and watershed-based rather than a one-size-fits-all general permit.

·        Incorporate measurable water quality standards in the permits that keep contaminants in our water under dangerous levels.

·        Explicitly ban manure application practices for factory farms that are potentially harmful to water quality, such as application on frozen ground, steep slopes, and application during precipitation.

·        Ensure strong enforcement of the rules.

·        Charge fees for the permits to fund DNR’s program, rather than forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.


Please contact the following and tell them to make these changes

to the clean water rules for factory farms!


Governor Tom Vilsack                                                             Director Jeff Vonk

c/o John Pederson                                                                    Iowa Department of Natural Resources

State Capitol Building                                                               Wallace State Office Building

Des Moines, IA 50319                                                             502 E 9th Street

515/281-4495                                                                          Des Moines, IA 50319                                                515/281-5385



Environmental Protection Commissioners’ contact information: 

Lisa Davis Cook                                   Donna Buell                                     Terrance Townsend

5605 Vista Drive                                  2608 Manhattan Blvd.                      500 East 17t St. North

West Des Moines, IA 50266                Spirit Lake, IA 51360                      Newton, IA 50208                         

515-226-0637                                     712-337-3250                                 641-792-3637


Lori Glanzman                                      Heidi Vittetoe                                    Francis Thicke

914 W King Drive                                2570 Hwy 92                                   1745 Brookville Rd

Mt. Pleasant, IA 52641                        Washington, IA 52353                      Fairfield, IA 52556                          

319-385-4117                                     319-653-4933                                  641-472-8554


Darrell Hanson                                     Jerry Peckumn                                   Kathryn Murphy

128 Delhi Road                                    1712 280th St.                                  1517 1st Avenue, S.W.

Manchester, IA 52057                         Jefferson, IA 50129                           LeMars, IA 51031                              

563-927-5278                                     515-386-4000                                  712-546-6941



For more information contact Sierra Club at 515/251-3995 or or

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement at 515/282-0484 or