Waterkeeper News: USEPA finds IEPA in serious noncompliance

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.

In past weeks, the Quad Cities Waterkeeper has been describing the threats to the Rock River and also Mississippi River. Once again this week, I would like to continue bringing your attention to concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs.

We really need regulation on these animal factories. They are destroying our rivers, wildlife, drinking water, and the future for our children. We need change.

To understand the unnatural conditions in many CAFOs, please read David Kirby’s book Animal Factory.

By Art Norris
Quad Cities Waterkeeper

After a two and a half year investigation, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region 5 has found the State of Illinois in serious noncompliance with the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

The investigation was spurred by a petition filed by the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water (ICCAW) and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) claiming that the Illinois EPA was failing to adequately implement and enforce the CWA against large-scale industrial livestock operations, also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms.

Among the investigative findings, “USEPA Region 5 finds that the Illinois EPA NDPES program for CAFOs does not meet the minimum threshold for an adequate program.” According to ICCAW attorney Danielle Diamond: “This thorough review by Region 5 validates what citizens have been saying for some time. The citizens of Illinois deserve to have clean water for their children and grandchildren.”

Illinois has one of the largest concentrations of hog CAFOs in the nation. A large share of Illinois waters has been polluted, and state reports indicate that CAFOs are a significant contributor. Just last month the largest industrial dairy in Illinois became the primary suspect in a major pollution event that occurred in McLean County, killing an estimated 40,000 fish along a 9-mile section of the Lone Tree Creek and Sangamon River.

The known water contamination threats from CAFOs, coupled with a weak regulatory environment, do not bode well for citizens in Jo Daviess County facing the prospect of the largest mega-dairy in the state. According to Jo Daviess County citizen Matthew Alschuler, “This report demonstrates that our concerns about the proposed mega-dairy CAFO in our area are right on target, and the lack of adequate regulatory oversight is irresponsible and reckless.”

The ICCAW petition urged the USEPA to strip Illinois of its authority to issue pollution control permits for the state’s rapidly-growing number of CAFOs because of ongoing failures by the Illinois EPA to appropriately regulate them.

In a response last week, USEPA Region 5 issued a letter and an investigation report to Illinois EPA Director Douglas Scott, former mayor of Rockford. The investigation report validated claims made by citizens and was blunt in directing state agency action, stating that “Illinois EPA must issue NPDES permits to CAFOs that discharge or are designed, constructed, operated, or maintained such that a discharge will occur.”

The letter to Director Scott gives the Illinois EPA 30 days to respond to USEPA with a description of the actions that will be taken to bring its program into compliance. If the Illinois EPA fails to adequately respond to USEPA’s directives, the State of Illinois could risk federal withdrawal of Illinois’ entire CWA permitting program. This would affect all industries, not just CAFOs.

ICCAW is a statewide coalition of family farmers and community groups advocating for sound policies and practices that protect the environment, human health and rural quality of life from the impacts of large-scale, industrialized livestock production facilities in Illinois. A majority of its members are family farmers and rural residents that live near large-scale livestock facilities who have been adversely impacted by the problems they create.

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 http://quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org/join.html and http://quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org/

From the Oct. 6-12, 2010 issue

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