A dairy farmer who allegedly ignored more than a decade of warnings from the Department of Natural Resources could face prison time for polluting. Environmental Specialist Tom McCarthy says this was a case quite different from a single accidental manure spill. McCarthy says the D.N.R. first got involved with farmer Carl Simon in 1987, and through the years have investigated a series of manure and milk spills and overflows. Then last year they found he’d intentionally breached a manure-storage basin and let it drain into a waterway that once was a trout stream. McCarthy says there’s no question this was an accidental act of pollution. After many conversations with Simon, McCarthy says he came to believe the farmer wanted to save time and money and thought the D.N.R. would keep sending him letters but didn’t have the authority to come arrest him. But after discovering the intentional manure spill a year ago, the D.N.R. contacted the state attorney general’s office and the federal Environmental Protection Agency — which can file charges, and did so. This month farmer Carl Simon was convicted in federal court on four charges of water pollution. McCarthy explains spilled milk is a source of contamination if it gets into a river or stream, as it uses oxygen the fish need, it’s mixed with potent cleaners from milk-room discharge in the barn and those cleaning products have lots of ammonia nitrogen which is toxic to fish. McCarthy says spilling the contaminated milk into a waterway is as bad a pollutant as manure is. He says the D.N.R. offered help for years to correct rain runoff and other drainage problems at the farm in Dubuque County near Farley, and end the spills of manure and milk into the nearby stream. He says they brought out Iowa State extension ag engineers to advise the farmer, and say it could have been fixed pretty easily. If the farmer had properly contained the milk and manure and applied them properly to cropland, McCarthy says “He never would have had a problem from us.” Instead, the defiant farmer was charged and has now been convicted of four federal counts of water pollution, and could face three years in prison on each of the four counts. No date has been set yet for his sentencing.
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