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Northeast Iowa dairy farm fined for contaminating creek


Northeast Iowa dairy farm fined for contaminating creek

Feb 26, 2024 | 4:45 pm ET
By Jared Strong
Northeast Iowa dairy farm fined for contaminating creek
Creeks are protected waterways in Iowa. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A dairy farm near Decorah that has been repeatedly cited by state regulators for manure releases was recently fined $8,000 for contaminating a tributary of a prominent creek that flows through the town.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources found in April 2023 that the farm operated by Darryl Humpal, about seven miles southwest of Decorah, had leaked manure again, when melting snow caused significant runoff and a wall that was meant to contain the manure had failed. Tests of the water in a tributary of Dry Run showed elevated levels of ammonia nitrogen, according to a recent DNR order.

The site has about 850 dairy cattle in confinement buildings and open feedlots.

Then in May, a DNR officer returned to the site and saw water that was used to wash the floor of a confinement building was flowing into the tributary. The officer again noted ammonia contamination in the stream.

The contaminations did not result in apparent fish kills. In 2017, manure from the facility that was applied to a hay field was washed by rain into a stream and killed about 35,000 small fish, according to another DNR order. The department levied a $2,000 fine and ordered Humpal to pay more than $13,000 of restitution for the dead fish.

In 2019, the department found that manure had flowed from the facility into a grassed waterway, which led to the installation of the wall that had failed before the most recent creek contamination.

“Mr. Humpal gained an economic benefit by failing to properly maintain the wall to assist with the control of the confinement manure,” the DNR said in its order that levied the recent fine.

The order also requires Humpal to submit a plan for how he will manage manure and contaminated water at the site to prevent it from reaching nearby streams.