The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has threatened to take over protection of Iowa's waterways from the state, while the state contends its strategy of compliance has been working fine.
A copy of an EPA report obtained by The Des Moines Register shows that Iowa has looked the other way in making sure livestock operations keep manure out of Iowa's waterways, including rivers and lakes.
Specifically, the EPA investigation found that the Iowa DNR hasn't been inspecting livestock operations properly, didn't respond adequately to pollution, assessed fines that were usually under half the minimum penalty allowed by state law and allowed manure application closer to waterways than allowed under federal law.
If enforcement duties are taken over by the EPA, Iowa will be only the fifth state to cede their livestock permit and inspection program to the federal government, according to the Register.
The Iowa Natural Resources Department says the EPA criticism is misplaced.
DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins says his agency has been encouraging compliance, rather than imposing fines and other penalties as punishment for failure to follow environmental rules. And Baskins says there's evidence the strategy is working, specifically on the issue of fines.
"The assertion that DNR has not assessed enough fines is an unfortunately broad generalization and misleading characterization," Bask ins told the Register in an email response to questions. "Fines are determined by circumstances unique to each instance."
Baskins said the agency has doled out $1.3 million in fines in 250 cases from 2006 to 2011, and in the last decade the percentage of large confinements requiring at least one discharge of manure has dropped from 5.2 percent to 2.5 percent.
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