DNR cites Walz Energy with another violation

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Infraction is fourth since July EPC meeting

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last week issued another notice of violation to Walz Energy, LLC, for failure to comply with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permit. 

The notice says Walz has also not met the requirements of the administrative consent order it entered into with the DNR in August to address previous violations at the 10,000-head cattle feedlot and biogas operation under construction outside Monona.

The latest notice of violation was the fourth issued to Walz Energy since the July 17 Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting, when the EPC chose not to refer the facility to the state attorney general’s office for ongoing issues that included illegal discharges to Bloody Run Creek. The other recent notices of violation were issued Aug. 21, Oct. 5 and Oct. 23, according to a letter sent to Walz Energy Dec. 12.

“This office needed to assess the stormwater compliance of this facility going into the winter months,” noted Tom McCarthy, environmental specialist senior with the DNR, in a report following a Dec. 10 inspection. “This department has seen very little action from Walz Energy to bring this site into compliance.”

In August, Walz Energy agreed to pay a $10,000 administrative penalty, comply with its stormwater permit and cease any illegal discharges to a water of the state.

Construction at the operation, which proposes to convert cattle manure and food waste into natural gas, has been halted since last fall. At the July EPC meeting, Walz Energy CEO Jon Haman promised to rectify issues and said he anticipated the project to be completed by the end of this year. However, little noticeable work has occurred at the site since then. 

According to the DNR, that includes stormwater control work Walz was ordered to complete to stabilize and seed the construction area.

“There were large areas of disturbed soil on the site that had no stabilization,” said McCarthy in the report. “I noted a large amount of stormwater in the site’s basins. A large amount of the construction site was inundated...I noted several areas of severe erosion and gully formation.”

McCarthy said construction wastes documented at an earlier visit were still on site. A new secondary containment to the site’s food storage basin had been built, but had breached, and evidence of frozen discharge was noted. 

At the time, “I noted normal, clear flow in Bloody Run Creek,” he added.

Current and future threats to Bloody Run, designated an Outstanding Iowa Water, as well as the groundwater in the area’s porous karst topography, have been the biggest concerns for local residents since the Walz Energy project began around a year and a half ago.

According to the DNR, Walz Energy is now required to implement all portions of its storm water pollution protection plan (SWPPP) and add items to the plan that are lacking, including waste disposal, within seven days of receipt of last week’s letter. They are also required to submit a plan detailing the approximate number of gallons of stored storm water, along with maps explaining the land application of that storm water and information about how and when it will be applied.

In addition, Walz Energy is to repair the site’s food storage basins and remove and properly dispose or reuse waste construction materials that are not under a roof.

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