Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
Monday at his farm, Dubuque County supervisor Wayne Demmer points out the logistics of the June 2011 manure overflow
DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -
The Dubuque County supervisor accused of a major fish kill in 2011 is now talking about the incident.
The Iowa DNR alleges Dubuque County supervisor Wayne Demmer is responsible for the death of more than 104,000 fish after a manure overflow at his farm in June of 2011.
Demmer said his attorney advised him to not speak with the media until only recently.
"When this got full, it either overflowed here or it'll blow those doors open," Demmer said, strolling his farm Monday afternoon, pointing out where the overflow occurred.
He doesn't deny manure spilled into the nearby stream, but he does question whether it was enough to do all the damage the DNR claims it did.
Demmer said rain two nights in a row in June of 2011 overwhelmed the pit that collects the manure from his hog and cattle operation. He said he estimates 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of manure made the half-mile trek from the farm to nearby Whitewater Creek.
However, he said he believes there may be more than just the manure overflow contributing to the death of 104,000 fish along 18 miles of stream.
"The week before we had this overrun, we had a hot spell," Demmer said. "I have neighbors told me after, there was dead fish in the stream before this happened, so did we get caught up in a temperature change plus we did something? I don't know, but I just don't feel that Demmer Family Farms is responsible for all of these fish."
Kelli Book is the Iowa DNR attorney handling Demmer's case. She was out of the office Monday, her colleague and fellow attorney Carrie Schoenebaum spoke with Book and with KWWL.
Schoenebaum said, for now, the department stands by the field office's initial investigation results: that the kill was, in fact, all due to the manure runoff at Demmer's farm.
Schoenebaum said the DNR is currently negotiating a consent order with Demmer and his attorney. That would include an agreed-upon fine for the overflow and for the fish loss.
"We're negotiating with them," Demmer said of the DNR. "We've had several meetings with them, and so I guess the next time hopefully we'll have more answers because we've asked each other a lot of questions."
The DNR hopes to wrap up the case and come to an agreement with Demmer by early fall.
The estimated value of the more-than-104,000 fish is $96,000, according to the DNR. Demmer would have to pay that fish restitution, which would go right back into the fund that pays to stock fish. He'd also have to pay a fine for Illegal Discharge to Waters of the State.
Demmer said he installed his current manure collection system nearly 20 years ago at a cost of $100,000. He said he put in a system that exceeded requirements at the time in order to be a good steward of the land.
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