By John Michaelson
DES MOINES, Iowa – One of the state's largest hog operations is being fined for the spill of manure into a tributary of the Des Moines River.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has fined The Maschhoffs $10,000 and ordered updates to equipment after the incident last fall.
In its ruling, the state also notes past spills at the facility near Keosauqua, says Peter Brandt, senior attorney for farm animals with the The Humane Society of the United States.
"And it mentions that this company has avoided making fixes to the facility that might have prevented the most recent spill,” Brandt points out. “They've got an outdated plumbing system. They gained what DNR calls an economic benefit by not making improvements before they got caught spilling a lot of manure last November."
Based in Illinois, The Maschhoffs' operation in southeast Iowa has nearly 7,500 head and produces more than 11 million gallons of manure annually.
The fine from the DNR comes after The Humane Society and other concerned groups threatened a lawsuit for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
Brandt says that is still possible.
"I think this situation highlights that citizens and public interest groups need to stay engaged and if you see something that looks like it's illegal and you call attention to it, you notify the state agency, you notify the company,” he stresses. “Sometimes that can lead to good things."
The Maschhoffs have said the possible lawsuit is without merit and that the company has an excellent track record of swift action to protect the environment. Audiofile.