Waterkeeper News: New threat to Rock River from Iowa

Editor’s note: Art Norris is the Quad Cities Waterkeeper (QCW). He looks after 150 miles of the Mississippi River and about 100 miles of the lower Rock River.

By Art Norris
Quad Cities Waterkeeper

What great news that DeKalb, with its responsibility to one of the only three Illinois Class A streams—the Kishwaukee River, will not have another hog slaughtering plant. The Kish goes through some beautiful country before it reaches the Rock River, and we have to fight for all of that.

The threats to the Rock River and also Mississippi River are many. This week, I would like to bring your attention to concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs. We cannot stop their imminent expansion in Illinois and Iowa without your help.

Even if a CAFO is on the edge of a river’s watershed or actually on a tributary, they still affect the mainstream and downriver areas.

Take a look at the article “Opposition grows to Iowa hog operation plan,” posted on the website of  Food CEO – The Business of Sustainable Food. Go to http://foodceo.com/news/meat-poultry/2010/08/opposition-grows-to-iowa-hog-operation-plan/

That article states: “Under the plan submitted to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Tom Dittmer of Grandview Farms, Inc., wants to expand the operation by nearly one-third, increasing capacity from 9,465 head to 12,487. It would be the ninth expansion to the farm’s hog operation. It includes construction of two new buildings and expansion of two existing buildings.”

Dittmer had more to say about his expansion to http://www.northscottpress.com/main.asp?SectionID=17&SubSectionID=66&ArticleID=10175, which reported, “‘The timing is just right for a lot of reasons,’ said Dittmer, who currently farrows-to-finish 80,000 pigs a year, utilizing more than two dozen finishing sites within a 25-mile radius of the home place. ‘Being involved with Triumph Foods at their St. Joseph (Missouri) processing plant, by sending about two-thirds of our pigs down there, has allowed us to see first-hand their success. Expanding now just positions us for when they build their new plant in East Moline.’”

QCW and many other concerned citizens have been fighting that proposed plant in East Moline because it will affect the Rock River, similar to the effect of the Tyson Foods plant. Dittmer’s operation would be a feeder to Triumph Foods on the Rock River.

Which brings the QCW to this Radish Magazine article by Dave Murphy, “Food for Thought: Beware the CAFOs,” which states: “Proponents have billed the plant as the biggest economic development project to land in the Quad-Cities in 30 years. They talk about an increase in jobs, an influx of workers and an increased tax base. The problem is what they don’t talk about—confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), to which Triumph will turn to meet its demand for 5.84 million live pigs each year at full capacity.

“An average CAFO holds 2,400 pigs. If the stock is turned over twice a year, it would take 1,217 CAFOs to meet Triumph’s needs. If each plant turned over its stock three times a year (the maximum), 811 CAFOs could do the job. And to maximize returns and diminish transportation costs, these 811 to 1,217 CAFOs would need to be within a 50- to 75-mile radius of the plant, says Chris Petersen, president of the Iowa Farmer’s Union.

“This many CAFOs in one compact area will radically alter the economy, environment and quality of life for residents in Scott, Clinton, Cedar, Muscatine and Jackson counties in Iowa and Henry, Mercer and Rock Island counties in Illinois,” concludes Murphy.

The Capital Times’ Bill Novack wrote a fine piece Aug. 5, about the new “biochemical trick” of the H1N1 “swine” flu virus and why it spreads fast. Our local leaders had better read this and think about how many “swine” they want around their families, not to mention the rest of us.

Which brings QCW to making this point—back when Triumph Foods was first proposed way back in 2006, opponents to the plant said that we feared the influx of Cafos to our area. Triumph Foods, and East Moline city officials told us time and time again, there would be no needed expansion of hog confinements in Illinois or Iowa. We were told this in the local newspapers and the city council meetings. Triumph Foods already had more than enough hogs coming from a five-state area. We were told that Triumph Foods wanted to process 4 million hogs a year, now we hear it’s 5.84 million. Was there one thing that we were told the truth about?

This could mean many, many more Cafos locating on your Rock and Mississippi rivers’ watershed.

They say the public comment period is open. I think this affects us all. Like I was saying above, we have been lied to, time, and time, again. Now, we see the truth.

Join your Quad Cities Waterkeeper in protecting the future for our children. Call every single member of Scott County Administrative Center Board of Supervisors’ Committee-of-the-Whole. Tell them to stop expansion of any CAFO in the area that would supply the potential disaster of a Triumph Foods plant on the Rock River. Their names and e-mail addresses are:

Chris Gallin


Jim Hancock


Jeff Liske


Larry Minard


Tom Sunderbruch


From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue

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