A team of state officials is headed to an unnamed creek about 20 miles west of Cedar Rapids, to inspect Mother Nature’s destruction of temporary dams of sand that were built to contain a manure spill.
The spill from a dairy cow confinement near Blairstown was discovered early Thursday morning. Sue Miller is an environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“We are really having a hard time getting a handle on how much manure was spilled,” Miller said early this morning during a telephone interview. “It was a large spill.”
The manure from the Cedar Valley Farms operation spilled into an unnamed tributary of Coon Creek, which runs into the Iowa River. State officials say the manure spill was partly contained yesterday in the small creek when Cedar Valley Farms built two sand dams in the creek, the first about a half-mile downstream and the second another one-and-a-half miles from the spill site. However, Miller said quite a bit of rain fell in that area at about 7 this morning.
“When the rains came, they came pretty hard. They got over an inch of rain in a short period of time,” Miller said. “The temporary dikes that had been put in place yesterday did wash out.”
Cedar Valley Farms is trying to install new dikes of sand in the creek this morning. Miller said the watery manure sludge was pumped all day and all night out of the creek onto nearby farmland.
“We are working to try to remediate the situation,” Miller said. “The owner’s been very cooperative and that’s all been encouraging and I think yesteday we had great luck that the weather held out as long as it did, so a lot of manure was recovered and land-applied.”
A statement from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources indicates the confinement’s owner will face some sort of fine for the spill. About 3000 head of dairy cattle are housed in the Cedar Valley Farms operation near Blairstown.
Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are calling on the state to levy “the maximum fines and penalties required by law” and the group’s leader says this is a test case for the new chief of the D.N.R.’s environmental protection division. Today is Bill Ehm’s first day in that job.