The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is charging four western Iowa feedlots with violating the Clean Water Act and accuses them of having inadequately designed facilities that could send manure into nearby streams if it rains heavily. One of those operations is "A to Z Feedlots" in Atlantic – and owner Allan Zellman claims the EPA is dead wrong.
They have no physical evidence, Zellman says. "The allegation comes from a model they have in Kansas City, and they ran our average rainfall through a model and it says I discharged but they have no physical evidence whatsoever." Zellman says he’s already responded to the agency, but says if EPA doesn’t change its mind and drop its accusation, he may have to cut his herd.
"I have 30 days to depopulate, which by the way in the state of Iowa there is not one empty pen space…so I don’t what I’m going to do with the cattle," Zellman says. The EPA says it inspected fifty feedlots last year in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and four of those got "administrative compliance orders." E-P-A attorney Dan Breedlove says letters were sent to the four farmers, letting them know their feedlots appear to violate the rules for manure storage.
The next step is for the producers to come meet with the regulators. Breedlove says they want to make sure there aren’t any factors that haven’t been considered when the letters went out. They’re also required to consider things like the ability to pay any penalties, and he says it works best to discuss the letters informally before the agency files any formal complaint. Each will have a meeting scheduled to bring any material they want to prove their farms ARE in compliance, ask for exceptions because of extenuating circumstances, or prove they have worked to improve their manure storage design.
EPA Region Seven Administrator John Askew says after a five-year moratorium to build manure storage that would withstand a "25-year storm" and not leak waste into waterways, most livestock producers were able to meet those requirements for their "CAFOs" — confined animal feeding operations.. Askew, a farmer himself, says that out of the 300-some primitive CAFOs in the state of Iowa, Askew says the great majority are doing a "tremendous job" and have come a long way towards compliance.