DNR seeking judicial enforcement against Walz Energy due to ongoing violations

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Ongoing violations at the Walz Energy site near Monona have prompted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to seek judicial enforcement.

In March, the DNR notified Walz Energy that it faced a $10,000 penalty for three separate violations that have occurred during construction of the 10,000-head cattle feedlot and biogas operation.

“Your client has been referred for enforcement due to multiple illegal discharges to a water of the state, violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and its wastewater construction permit,” noted DNR Attorney Carrie Schoenebaum in a May 23 letter addressed to Walz Energy’s lawyer, Eldon McAfee.

Per the consent order issued in March, Walz Energy was also told to cease all illegal discharges to waters of the state, comply with all conditions of its NPDES permit and, in the future, obtain all NPDES permits prior to engaging in construction activity.

“Previously,” Schoenebaum wrote, “the department had proposed to handle some of the violations administratively. However, due to the ongoing nature of the violations, which resulted in an illegal discharge to a water of the state on or about May 4, the department intends to seek judicial enforcement of the matter.”

In the letter, Schoenebaum said the DNR planned to request referral of the matter to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office at the June 19 Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting. However, after the letter was sent, McAfee stated that he was unable to attend the June meeting, so the DNR agreed to address the matter at the EPC’s July 17 meeting instead, explained DNR Director of Communications Alex Murphy.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. that day, in room 116 of the Iowa State Capitol, 1007 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines.

The EPC is a panel of nine citizens who provide policy oversight over Iowa’s environmental protection efforts. EPC members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by vote of the senate for four-year terms.

In the meantime, Schoenebaum intimated that the pending outcome of the referral does not restrict Walz Energy from continuing work at the site.

Work at the site, located at 22578 Hwy. 18, first began over a year ago, with plans to construct six open front cattle barns, to go with an additional barn already in existence, as well as a feed storage area, concrete transfer pits and a liquid manure storage lagoon with a capacity of nearly 39 million gallons.

Also included on the site will be tanks for anaerobic digestion and methane production. The manure from the 10,000 cattle at the site will be captured, and with the help of the anaerobic digesters, combined with waste feed products to produce natural gas.

Since construction began, local residents have raised concerns about the project, citing its location in the watershed of Bloody Run Creek, an Outstanding Iowa Water. They fear it is and will continue to be a threat to the area’s water quality, not just of Bloody Run Creek, but ground water, as well. Many also felt the project location, in karst topography that’s prone to sinkholes, was unsuitable.

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