Critics charge recently released documents show Governor Terry Branstad is trying to dilute efforts to enforce clean water standards in Iowa.

David Goodner is with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a group that’s asking the federal government to regulate large-scale livestock confinements that produce the liquid manure that’s spread on fields as nitrogen fertilizer.

“He is working for big business, big corporate interest groups — many of them located out of state — at the expense of everyday Iowans, our drinking water, our recreational water and our environment,” Goodner says. “And that’s kind of a big deal.”

The federal government has threatened to step in and regulate the application of nitrogen on Iowa farm fields because the number of polluted rivers and lakes in Iowa keeps growing. For the past year state officials have been in discussions with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agency officials to get approval for a plan that would keep the state in charge of regulating farm operations.

Goodner’s group has released a letter Branstad wrote the EPA in May, outlining Branstad’s preference for efforts to get farmers to voluntarily limit manure application rather than regulations that limit nitrogen levels on farm fields.

“His intervention makes clear that he wants to prevent Clean Water Act enforcement of factory farms in Iowa and he’s doing it essentially on behalf of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and other big-interest, big-money corporate ag groups,” Goodner says.

In his letter, Branstad wrote he favors a “common sense” approach to water quality regulations that do not become “overly burdensome.” Branstad expressed opposition to the EPA’s call for state government inspections of livestock confinements that hold between 300 and a thousand head of livestock.

The Des Moines Water Works is threatening to file a lawsuit to force the courts to settle the dispute over nitrogen run-off. The utility provides drinking water to about half a million people in central Iowa and has spent several hundred thousand dollars so far this year running a special unit that filters out the high level of nitrates in the water supply.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)