Around one dozen members of the group “Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund” gathered outside the office of the Association for Business and Industry Monday where the governor was set to hold meetings with what he calls “stakeholders” to talk about clean water issues.
Group member, Deborah Bunka of Ames, says not enough is being done to protect Iowa’s waters.
“In 2002, Iowa had 248 polluted waterways, now we have 630 thanks to the 747 manure spills since 1996 from factory farms in Iowa,” Bunka says.
Bunka says the group wants 4 things. “Number one, every factory farm in Iowa to get a Clean Water Act Permit and a ‘three strikes and you’re out rule; number two, DNR inspections that find problems and fix problems; number three, tough fines and penalties that deter future pollution; number four, adopt the EPA’s waters of the U.S. rule so that more bodies of water are covered under the Clean Water Act,” Bunka says.
Brenda Brink, a CCI Action member from Huxley, says they should have been invited to the meeting.
“It’s time for Iowans to be included as stakeholders because we have too many impaired waterways, we have a crisis with our lakes, we have people who depend on lakes and rivers for recreation, and we can’t get into the stakeholder meeting,” Brink says.
Brink says toxic algae blooms have been reported in Lake Geode, Lake Red Rock, Saylorville Lake, and Big Creek Lake and the blooms stem from high levels of organic matter and ammonia in the rivers, often the result of agriculture runoff, especially livestock operations and manure fertilized fields.
“We need meaningful rules, and we want to know, the stakeholders out here want to know, is he going to be cleaning it up, or is he going to be the dirty water governor,” Brink says. A few minutes after Bunka and Brink spoke, Des Moines police arrived and asked them to move away from the front of the building. Officers told them they could make their statement, but had to do so in a public area and not on private property.
The Governor’s spokesman, Jimmy Centers, released this response to the group: “Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds are committed to water quality. In fact, since Branstad and Reynolds took office, water quality funding has increased by 26 percent. The Governor and Lt. Governor will continue working with stakeholders to ensure conservation and water quality efforts are adequately funded.”