New report: Manure spills still a threat to clean water in Iowa

Second in a series. Previously, the Iowa Environmental Council responded to several issues in a developing dialogue between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources over how Iowa enforces Clean Water Act permitting and inspection requirements related to livestock facilities.

Two fish in an Iowa waterway died during a manure spill.

Manure spills can wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems. According to the Council’s analysis, illegal manure spills killed more than 1.2 million fish in Iowa in the last ten years.

The Iowa Environmental Council has analyzed public records about manure spills that reached Iowa waterways over the last decade and found spills from livestock operations remain a major threat to water quality and aquatic life.  At the same time, Iowa’s strategy for permitting, inspecting, and enforcing standards for livestock facilities is not providing adequate protection for Iowa’s waters from spills that have proven devastating to aquatic life.

Of those spills where DNR documented that manure reached water that took place between 2001 and 2011 (262):

  • 42% resulted in no documented monetary penalty assessed by DNR.[1]
  • 37% resulted in a documented fish kill.
  • In fish kill cases, the average restitution penalty was $0.19/fish.[2]

Click to view the Iowa Environmental Council's map of manure spills by county.You can download the Council’s report “Manure spills still a threat to clean water in Iowa” and view a map showing manure spills by county.


The Iowa Environmental Council compiled this spill data from five DNR-managed sources, including the field office compliance database, fish kill database, hazardous materials release database, the agency’s online repository of administrative orders, and a DNR report summarizing penalties for prohibited discharges at animal feeding operations.  This fact sheet includes information available to the Council through Oct. 5, 2012 with updates provided by the DNR on October 30 and 31, 2012.


[1] In 30 of these 109 cases, DNR was not able to identify the party responsible for the spill.
[2] These fees are determined by Iowa law with guidance from the American Fisheries Society, not DNR.

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