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June 2, 1999

Court Orders DeCoster Farms to Pay $25,000 in Penalties

Attorney General's lawsuit alleged illegal discharge of hog wastesat three facilities in Wright County, Iowa.

District Court Judge Timothy J. Finn assessed civil penalties totaling $25,000 against DeCoster Farms in an order filed Tuesday in Wright Country District Court in Clarion.

Finn conducted a trial in March on a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General's Office that alleged hog waste violations by Austin J. DeCoster doing business as DeCoster Farms of Iowa at three sites in Wright County in north central Iowa.

The suit alleged that land application of liquid hog manure by DeCoster resulted in pollution to the waters of the State in three separate events and locations in 1997, all in Wright County.

According to facts cited by Judge Finn, 1,008,000 gallons of liquid manure from Nursery Unit #7 were applied on the surface of frozen, snow-covered land between Jan. 22 and Feb. 17, 1997. A total of 606,000 gallons of liquid manure from Sow Unit #11 were applied to similar land between January 3 and February 3. A thaw on February 18 and 19 caused the snow to melt and runoff containing manure from Unit 7 eventually to flow into Otter Creek and runoff from Unit 11 to flow into a tile intake and a drainage ditch, another water of the state.

In April, a total of 2,872,450 gallons of liquid manure from DeCoster's Nursery Unit #4 was applied by injection and surface application. About April 19, the day following the last day of the land application, liquid manure was seen discharging into an agricultural drainage well at the site.

The alleged violations were investigated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in response to citizen reports of possible violations.

"It is clear that DeCoster's application of liquid manure to the three sites resulted in the addition of manure to the waters of the state," Finn wrote in his order, which rejected several legal challenges DeCoster had made to the state enforcement actions.

Finn assessed civil penalties totaling $25,000 for several violations of Iowa statutes, regulations, and DNR orders.

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