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Browns of Armstrong fined $76,000 for stormwater runoff

Judge rules in favor of EPA for runoff that made East Fork of Des Moines River unavailable for recreation

By Staff | Jan 11, 2021

Thursday, a judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fining Josh and Tony Brown of Armstrong a $76,000 penalty for violating the federal Clean Water Act. The Browns do business as Riverview Cattle and were found to have discharged pollutants from their cattle feedlot on 41 days into the East Fork of the Des Moines River. The Browns’ feeding operations contain over 300 head of cattle. This required them to obtain a Clean Water Act permit and take measures to minimize or eliminate dis-charge of pollutants in stormwater runoff from their facilities. The court ruling states Riverview Cattle repeatedly discharged stormwater containing pollutants through an underground pipe that drained into the river, with-out having obtained a permit. Riverview countered that pollutants never reached the river, but Administrative Law Judge Christine Do-elian Coughlin upheld the EPA’s observations, modeling and other evidence, and found Riverview liable for Clean Water Act violations. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources determined the East Fork of the Des Moines River is impaired for recreational use due to high levels of bacteria, ammonia and oxygen-depleting substances from feedlot runoff that are toxic to aquatic life and potentially harmful to people. “We are encouraged by Judge Coughlin’s ruling,” David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, said. “Animal feedlot pollution is a serious threat to our na-tion’s waters and this ruling sends the right message that feedlot owners must comply with the law.”The fine assessment stems from an EPA visit back in 2014 which led to an Administrative Order that directed the Browns to take actions to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act, including ceasing all unpermitted discharges. The Browns did block the surface inlet. However, discharge still entered the river through the drainage tiles, pushed by the accumulation of rainwater and other precipitation. The EPA made a complaint filing in May of 2016, which originally sought up to $96,000 in damages. The Browns did not appeal