Waterkeeper News: Waterkeeper catches factory farm polluter

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

I have been talking about the threats to the Rock and Mississippi rivers, which are many. This week, I would like to bring your attention to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s), again, and their imminent expansion in Illinois, and Iowa, without your help.

July 22, 2010, while doing an aerial patrol in the company of a Chicago Tribune photographer, the Quad Cities Waterkeeper observed and photographed the Dittmer Grandview factory hog farm of Eldridge, Iowa, possibly discharging into Hickory Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi River. The Quad Cities Waterkeeper filed complaints with the Iowa DNR (DNR) and the U.S. EPA.

The DNR investigated the complaint and, according to their report, observed that “discharges of manure outside of the manure control system were designed to occur through a keyway,” which is located adjacent to a tile inlet directly leading to the Hickory Creek. DNR officials observed manure solids around the tile inlet, but did not see liquid manure draining into the inlet. Iowa state law requires that all manure produced in factory farm confinement enclosures be retained between periods of waste application.

The first set of water tests conducted by the DNR showed high levels of E. coli and ammonia. The DNR report suggests that the facility was designed to intentionally flush hog waste through the tile line that runs directly into a road ditch and then into the Hickory Creek.

Mr. Dittmer, the owner of the factory farm, has applied for a construction permit with the DNR to expand. The permit would expand his facility’s capacity from 9,465 to 12,487 hogs. The local county board is recommending the facility be allowed to expand based, in part, on an assumed clean environmental record and despite public outcry by local citizens.

Mr. Dittmer is board president of America’s Premium Pork, a collective of Midwest hog producers that owns a share of the Triumph hog processing plant in Missouri. He has stated that if the proposed Triumph plant in East Moline, Ill., is built, he will supply hogs to that plant instead of the Missouri location.

The Quad Cities Waterkeeper has filed an additional complaint with the U.S. EPA alerting the agency that Mr. Dittmer is proposing to discharge into a U.S. waterway without a required Clean Water Act NPDES permit.

Mr. Dittmer states that he has 25 other facilities. In light of the DNR’s investigation, the Quad Cities Waterkeeper is calling on authorities to inspect all of Mr. Dittmer’s other factory farm facilities and to fine him for proposing to discharge from the Grandview facility without a required permit.

Quad Cities Waterkeeper is working with several other like-minded organizations protesting the expansion of the Dittmer factory farm and other factory farms in Iowa and Illinois, including the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water (ICCAW), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) and Stop Triumph Permanently (STP).

The DNR reported in 2008 that 447 Iowa lakes, streams and rivers are unfit for human use. Illinois faces very similar troubles. The expansion of more factory hog farms will only exacerbate existing water pollution problems.

QCW would like to thank The Rock River Times for letting the people know.

Please join your Quad Cities Waterkeeper in stopping any more damage to our rivers, lakes, and streams. Go to the QCW website and join up. Together we can make change.

Please visit quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org/join.html and quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org.

From the Sept. 1-7, 2010 issue

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