Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network (CCCAN) presented a statement which was critical of the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s (IDNR) handling of the Walz Energy permitting process at a public hearing in Elkader on Nov. 29. Well over 100 people, some standing room only and spilling out into the hallway, were in attendance and dozens provided oral comments. Many individuals, including close neighbors, expressed concern with the size and placement of the operation in the environmentally sensitive and sinkhole prone location in the Bloody Run Creek watershed.
To: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Subject: Issuance of NPDES Stormwater Permit to Walz Energy
Date: Nov. 29, 2017
Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network (CCCAN) urges the IDNR to defer on issuing an NPDES stormwater construction permit until a thorough and independent review is conducted regarding the IDNR’s lack of regulatory oversight and enforcement of State of Iowa statutes governing the Walz Energy operation near Monona. On Oct. 9 CCCAN requested that any and all construction at the site be halted immediately until concerns regarding both construction and ongoing operational activity in the Bloody Run Creek Watershed are addressed.
The IDNR approved the siting of one of the largest commercial feedlots in Iowa history, associated methane producing operation, and 39,000,000 (million) gallon waste water lagoon in the watershed of Bloody Run Creek, designated as an Outstanding Iowa Water, with little to no public knowledge or opportunity for public input.
Furthermore, the IDNR has consistently failed to administer its jurisdictional duties. As only one example, the IDNR ignored Iowa Wastewater Treatment Facilities Design Standards Chapter 18C Wastewater Treatment Ponds (Lagoons) that states ‘If the facility is located in an area of known or suspected fractured limestone (Karst topography) all cells must be lined with a synthetic liner’ . While Walz Energy should be commended for voluntarily committing to this liner in late November, the IDNR’s inability or unwillingness to include the statutorily required liner as a part of the Lagoon Construction Permit calls into question the integrity of their permitting process.
Additionally, the IDNR has mishandled or simply ignored the permitting processes as follows:
- Issued Notice of Violation (NOV) in June but allowed construction to proceed without a stormwater permit.
- Issued an earthen lagoon construction permit contingent upon construction not proceeding until a stormwater permit is obtained with full knowledge that lagoon construction was occurring.
- Issued a NOV for a storm water discharge but has not yet assessed a fine or required that construction be halted.
Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network supports responsible agriculture and recognizes that many farmers adhere to good conservation and environmental practices. However, large commercial feeding and associated energy generation operations have the potential to far exceed the environmental impact of any single farming operation. Consequently, regulatory bodies like the IDNR and Clayton County Board of Supervisors must take a proactive and responsible role in overseeing these operations and not simply be a ‘rubber stamp’.
The IDNR has not shown itself to be up to the task of effectively overseeing the permitting process and any further regulatory activities should be held in abeyance until public trust in IDNR’s ability to administer its regulatory responsibilities, in the interest of ALL Clayton County residents and citizens of Iowa, can be restored.