Dairy Farm Faces Federal Clean Water Act Suit

Rock Valley, Iowa — The federal government has filed a lawsuit against a Rock Valley dairy farm for violations of the Clean Water Act.
The lawsuit alleges that Meadowvale Dairy and its owner, Sjerp Ysselstein, has on at least four occasions allowed the waste water in a cement bunker to overflow and enter two unnamed tributaries of the Big Sioux River, constituting four violations of the Clean Water Act. It says that by law, the bunker needs to be “dewatered” in the fall to make sure that there is enough room to hold the coming winter’s manure. It alleges that Medowvale did not do that.

The suit says that by law, the facility has to be built to hold a 25-year 24-hour rainfall — which in this case is about five inches in 24 hours. While the overflows happened in periods of precipitation, the suit says the precipitation events did not constitute a 25-year, 24-hour rainfall.

The bunker holds waste water from about 10,000 head of cattle.

The EPA requested information from Meadowvale in May of 2014 in order to assess their storage capacity. The suit says that after an incomplete response they asked again in December 2014. Meanwhile, in July of 2014, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources received reports of an unauthorized discharge that were also investigated.

If the court finds in favor of the federal government, Meadowvale will face civil penalties not to exceed $37,500 per day for each violation since 2009.