Advocates: Animal feeding operation rules too lax

Group seeks more protections from master matrix program

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DES MOINES — An advocacy organization is pressing state environmental regulators to strengthen a program designed to add layers of environmental protection to large-scale animal feeding operations.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement recently submitted a petition urging the state’s Environmental Protection Committee to strengthen Iowa’s master matrix program and put a moratorium on large-scale farming operations until the permit process has been reviewed.

Dozens of CCI members attended the commission’s meeting Tuesday, and 22 members spoke during the public comment period.

Janis Elliot, a CCI member from Avon, said tests have revealed the drinking water in her well has potentially harmful nitrate levels at 19 parts per million. She said that is up from 12 parts per million two years ago and 8 parts per million three years ago.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends drinking water not have nitrates over 9 parts per million.

“I’ve been drinking poison water and I don’t know for how long,” Elliot said. “And I’m looking at you and I’m feeling our Legislature is not protecting us. You’re the Environmental Protection Committee and I don’t feel like you’re protecting me. I don’t know what to do.”

Many speakers came from Worth County, where several large-scale animal feeding operations are planned. They expressed concerns about pollution from animal manure and noise and air pollution from large farm operations built near homes.

The organization is asking the commission to strengthen the master matrix — they think it’s too easy for large operations to meet the criteria.

The organization also is asking the state to stop issuing permits for large farm operations until the master matrix program is addressed.

“Iowans are rising up and demanding clean water,” said CCI board President Cherie Mortice, of Des Moines. “The master matrix is indefensible to logical, everyday people.”

After the meetings, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp said in an interview that the department is examining the CCI petition. The department has until Sept. 16 to determine whether to take action on the petition’s recommendations.

“We’ll be looking at the petition (and) will determine whether or not it meets the criteria of the law, whether we will give a recommendation to the (commission) at that particular time,” Gipp said.

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