A West Des Moines energy company has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine for environmental violations during construction of a 10,000-head cattle feedlot and biogas facility near Monona.
Jon Haman, chief operating officer for Walz Energy, signed an administrative consent order Aug. 21 agreeing to pay the penalty within 30 days. The $10,000 penalty is the maximum the Iowa Department of Natural Resources can levy.
Company representatives successfully argued last month the Iowa DNR should not refer the case to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which could pursue penalties of up to $5,000 per day, per violation for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit holders.
Walz is planning a $30 million facility that converts manure and food waste into natural gas. Haman told The Gazette in July the facility will be up and running by the end of the year.
Northeast Iowa residents have been concerned since early 2017 about the operation because of its proximity to Bloody Run Creek and because the site has karst topography, which is porous and allows pollutants to seep into groundwater.
In April 2017, the Iowa DNR told Walz Energy a stormwater NPDES permit would be required because Bloody Run is designated an Outstanding Iowa Water.
As the permit was pending, Iowa DNR investigators arrived at the facility Oct. 11 to find the creek downstream of the construction site was murky and brown, the agency reported. Measurements showed total suspended solids were 20 times those in tests upstream and turbidity, or clarity, of the water downstream was 500 times worse than the upstream test site.
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The discharge is significant because sediment released into trout habitat can fill in stream-bottom niches where fish lay their eggs.
The Iowa DNR in March proposed a $10,000 fine to settle the case, but a May 4 stormwater violation compelled agency officials to pursue judicial enforcement by the Attorney General’s Office. With that option now off the table, the Iowa DNR returned to the $10,000 penalty.
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