Grace Smith | July 8, 2022
Last week, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fined farmer Terry Van Maanen $10,000, the most the DNR can charge, for ignoring signs of a leak in a manure digester. In January, the facility in northwest Iowa that captures gaseous fuel from cow manure began filling up. The DNR said it was noted there was a drop in levels by five feet, but no investigation arose from the level drop. Then, in February, the manure digester, operated by a Colorado-based company named Gevo, leaked 376,000 gallons of manure water into nearby creeks near Rock Valley, Iowa.
At the start, Gevo operators were unsure of the leak and assumed it was the disappearance of foam at the surface of the water, but later reported the leak to the DNR on Feb. 7. The large spill leaking thousands of gallons of manure water caused E. Coli measurements in nearby streams and rivers to increase.
The DNR fined Van Maanen because he has responsibility over the Winding Meadows Dairy facility which has about 2,400 cows, even though other workers may have been operating the digester at the time of the leak. To fix issues from the leak, Gevo put epoxy, or very strong glue, in areas of the container where leaks are likely. Environmental Specialist for the DNR Jacob Simonsen said the facility is back in operation.