A coalition of groups intend to file a lawsuit against the nation’s third-largest pork producer, alleging Clean Water Act violations at one of its swine facilities in southern Iowa.
Garry Klicker, a farmer from Bloomfield, lives about 20 miles away from the operation in Van Buren County, near Keosauqua. A manure spill was reported at the facility November 4, with thousands of gallons of manure flowing into a creek that drains into the Des Moines River.
“These guys have underground pipes and underground pits and these huge lagoons and this Maschhoffs site is so old that it’s still using a lagoon system which, you know, nobody builds those anymore,” Klicker says.
Klicker says the Iowa Department of Natural Resources should require the operators to install test wells around the manure lagoons to make sure manure isn’t leaching out into the soil. The DNR recently ruled the facility did not need to have a Clean Water Act permit for its nearly 7,500 sow facility. Klicker says if the “corrupt” state agency won’t police the facility, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and other environmental groups will through the courts.
“The DNR has never done a good job inspecting these properties,” Klicker says. “It’s always just been kind of a ‘good old boy network’ where, ‘Yeah, it looks o.k. to me’ and, you know, this is a perfect example. This facility is over 15 years old and it’s falling apart and the DNR is still not paying any attention to how it’s being operated.”
Klicker says about 20,000 hogs are being raised within four miles of his house and he blames his asthma condition on the foul air in the area, as he’s never been a smoker.
“The citizens of Iowa deserve protections from these things,” Klicker says. “…At the very least, the DNR needs to do a better job inspecting these older facilities.”
In 60 days a Fairfield-based attorney working for The Environmental Integrity Project will file the lawsuit on behalf of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the Humane Society of the United States.
A statement on the Maschhoffs company website says the firm “is focused on delivering responsible and progressive environmental management to the farm” with “pork operations that are more environmentally friendly than ever.” The Maschhoffs run livestock operations in Illinois, Indiania, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, Georgia and Alabama as well as Iowa. The company owns the pigs and provides the feed. Local operators provide the buildings.
A spokeswoman for the company issued a written statement this afternoon. “The Maschhoffs is in full compliance with the state of Iowa’s environmental protection laws,” Julie Maschhoff said. “We believe this notice of potential legal action from the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the Humane Society of the United States is frivolous and totally without merit.”
(This post was updated at 3:54 p.m. with additional information.)