Opinions given on hog lots
AINSWORTH — About 50 of the more than 100 people who attended a public hearing Tuesday at the Marr Park Conservation/Education Center hosted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources gave their opinion for a record that will be used to help pen new clean water legislation to bring the state into compliance with federal guidelines.
The proposed changes would adopt federal regulations requiring confinements, or totally roofed animal feeding operations, to comply with the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements. The changes would also require permits to comply with federal setback requirements for land application of manure. All comments were recorded. Gene Tinker, animal feeding operations coordinator for the DNR, said that the recording would be put into a report and given to the state Environmental Protection Commission.
“This is your time to speak on the record what you would like to see happen to the rules,” Tinker said “It is not a discussion or a question and answer; it is your input on these rules.”
Several members of the audience commented that they were concerned that no member of the Environmental Protection Commission was in attendance. While the information would be given to the commission, speakers felt that some “anecdotal information” that would not make the report might be helpful in making the decision.
Many of the people attending were members of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, who have attended several other public hearings to request changes in state law pertaining to factory hog farms. Evan Burger, farm and environment organizer, was the first to speak during the hearing. He presented about 100 cards with public comments to Tinker.
“They all say one simple thing — the DNR needs to strengthen its rules,” he said.
According to a press release from the group, the CCI is requesting the DNR amend the law to clearly state all factory farms must receive a Clean Water Act permit forcing them to abide by stronger standards or be closed; adopt a “three strikes and you are out” policy for habitual violators; adopt a rule stating factory farms have the burden of proof of assuring compliance after a violation; strengthen water quality and manure standards; and build a user-friendly database of manure spills, Clean Water Act inspections, and permits. Many of the people supporting CCI also asked that all members of the Environmental Protection Commission who own factory farms recuse themselves from making the decision due to conflict of interest.
Many people, some from as far away as Princeton, spoke during the hearing, supporting the CCI. Some told stories of how neighboring confinements have impacted them.
Confinement owners spoke against the CCI regulations. Many of the owners said that there had been much misinformation about factory farms.
As the meeting wrapped up, all the people agreed everyone wanted clean water in Iowa. They also agreed there were problems, which is why the discussion was being held in the first place.
Confinement owners Jerome and Heidi Vittetoe attended the meeting, but did not speak. In an interview, Heidi Vittetoe said that she felt the meeting was well managed and the two sides were respectful to each other. She said that she hopes the two sides can work together collectively to ensure clean water for the state of Iowa. Vittetoe also said that the largest water pollution problem in the state is soil particles and not hog manure.
Anyone wishing to submit comments can send them to Tinker in care of the Iowa DNR, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines, IA 50319-0034 or fax to 515-281-8895, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.