DNR planning public hearing in November regarding Walz Energy facility

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).

An Oct. 11 public meeting to discuss a stormwater construction permit for the Walz Energy facility east of Monona was canceled last week after an influx of comments from the public. The DNR will now hold a public hearing near the end of November. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

An Oct. 11 public meeting to discuss a stormwater construction permit for the Walz Energy facility east of Monona was canceled last week, just a day before the meeting was set to take place in Elkader.

“We decided, given the level of comments, that we were legally obligated to have a public hearing instead,” said Iowa DNR Stormwater Coordinator Joe Griffin as to why the meeting was canceled. 

Griffin said his office received around a dozen comments from the public.

Area residents are concerned about how the Walz Energy facility, a proposed 10,000-head cattle feedlot and biogas operation currently under construction on Highway 18/52, outside Monona, could impact the Bloody Run Creek Watershed.

Bloody Run Creek is a coldwater stream. Deemed an “Outstanding Iowa Water,” it’s often used by locals and visitors alike for recreation, particularly trout fishing.

The area’s karst topography, with fractured limestone, also has residents worried about the facility’s potential impact on groundwater.

Walz Energy began grading the roughly 50-acre site earlier this year. Now, construction is underway on six open front cattle barns, to go with an additional barn already in existence, as well as a feed storage area, concrete transfer pits and an earthen liquid manure storage lagoon with a capacity of nearly 39 million gallons.

Also included on the site will be four tanks for anaerobic digestion and methane production for scrubbed biogas.

The manure from the 10,000 cattle at the site will be captured and, with the help of the anaerobic digesters, combined with waste feed products to produce natural gas.

This construction has continued even though the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has yet to issue a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

According to Joe Sanfilippo, supervisor at the DNR’s Manchester environmental field office, that’s not unusual.

“We cannot require a NPDES permit until after we see discharge,” he explained. “Up until recently, we’d not seen any.” 

Last week’s meeting was meant to discuss Walz Energy’s individual stormwater permit for soil-disturbing activities during construction.

Griffin said a public hearing will likely be held near the end of November. The public will be notified, he added, once a suitable date and location have been selected. 

A permit could not be issued until following the hearing.

The DNR will continue to accept public comments through Friday, Oct. 20, on a stormwater permit for soil-disturbing activities during construction at the Walz Energy facility. Written comments should be directed to Storm Water Coordinator, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 502 E. 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50319; at joe.griffin@dnr.iowa.gov or fax at (515) 725-8202. People may also contact Griffin at (515) 725-8417. 

Jon Haman, the chief operating officer of Walz Energy, said they’ve taken steps to stop run-off during construction, such as using basins to capture water and employing silt fence and buffer strips.

The DNR has also regularly monitored the site. Throughout the summer, no issues were detected, said Sanfilippo. However, there was little rain, he noted.

“After the storms of the past week, we did have staff up there to do an inspection,” he said, “and they did find some concerns.”

As of press time, Sanfilippo said he was not able to discuss the concerns, but noted the office plans to release an investigative report this week regarding its findings.

Rate this article: 
Average: 2.2 (17 votes)