Spencer, IA: (Jul 05, 2012) - Region 7 EPA Administrator Karl Brooks says he remembers it like it was yesterday.
What Brooks clearly remembers is telling a top Nebraska official two years ago that the agency was going to conduct flyovers of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) in that state.
Brooks made the revelation at a meeting this week with 60 to 70 Nebraska livestock producers. The meeting occurred because of the controversy over EPA flyovers of CAFOs in Nebraska and Iowa. Top officials, including Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns and Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, have demanded answers from EPA officials. Brooks says his office has stepped up its efforts to show farmers how and why the agency started the practice to search for CAFOs for potential Clean Water Act violations.
Brooks told the Nebraska cattlemen that he spoke with Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Mike Linder prior to conducting the flyovers. Brooks said Linder disagreed with the idea of flyovers, but conceded that EPA had the authority to conduct them.
EPA officials say the agency looks at impaired watersheds, the number of CAFOs present in those watersheds, and for evidence of possible runoff from the feedlots. If a problem is found, a ground inspection follows. EPA says the most common problems are overflowing sewage basins and mortality management in swine operations.
About 90 percent of the Nebraska CAFOs observed showed not indication of potential violations, according to the EPA.
Farm groups have expressed concern about privacy issues and what is perceived to be an expansion of EPA authority.