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DENR Taking Public Comment on CAFO Water Pollution Permit Thru Nov. 8

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is taking public comment on its proposed revision of the General Water Pollution Control Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations through November 8. Dakota Rural Action wants you to submit your comments and urge DENR to do more to protect South Dakota’s water from industrial-scale poop spills.

In a call to action to members and other interested water drinkers, the DRA Rural Vitality Committee suggests that commenters urge DENR to adopt several practices:

  • inspect CAFOs during construction
  • improve testing and monitoring of wells
  • strengthen rules on manure application on tiled fields
  • impose stiffer, even automatic penalties and inspections on violators of water pollution permit conditions
  • require bonding to address manure spills and lagoon failures
  • control odors to protect neighbors (folks around Mount Vernon should be all over that!)

Here’s DRA’s full press release on this call to action. Remember, the November 8 deadline is weekend after next, so write fast!

Dakota Rural Action’s Rural Vitality committee announces a Call To Action for public comment on South Dakota’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) rewrite of the General Water Pollution Control Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The proposed new permit can be read at and comments will be accepted through November 8, 2015.  A contested case hearing has already been scheduled for December 16, 2015.

One of the DENR’s many responsibilities is to regulate confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) which are large animal operations—2000 to 20000 head dairies, 6500 head hog barns, million chickens or turkeys. The main goal is to prevent water pollution by setting standards for the handling of the millions of pounds of manure produced by these facilities. This includes everything from holding pond specifications to manure application on fields. One 5,600 dairy cow operation is the equivalent of the annual human waste produced by the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

There have been many concerns over the increase in the number of CAFOs in South Dakota. This is the first time the permit has been revised with public input since 2003, and public comment is critical to put in place high standards for protecting our water. Any South Dakota resident has the right to contact the DENR with suggestions or comments on the permit. Since the permit is quite extensive, the best comments may reflect personal experience.  Let the department know what regulations you feel are most important in protecting our state’s waterways.

Comments can be emailed to or sent to Kent Woodmansey, DENR, Joe Foss Building, 523 E Capitol Ave, Pierre, SD 57501. A template for comments is available for use in drafting your letter on Rural Vitality’s webpage, There is also a link on the DENR’s Public Notice webpage, under General Permits:  Time is limited: the comment period ends November 8 [Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2015.10.28].


  1. Lanny V Stricherz 2015-10-29 10:34

    Sorry to complain, Cory, but when I got the email this morning from Dakota Rural Action, it is like I responded to them. It would take me until November 8th to read and halfway understand the DENR’s permitting 45 pages. All I know, is when I was involved in this issue in the past, there was a CAFO north of Brookings near the MN/SD border. When the snow melted on warm days during the winter, one of the neighbors noticed effluent running into the creek. When they contacted the SD DENR, they could not even get someone to inspect it. So they contacted the MN DENR because the creek ran into MN. The MN group came right out and got the mess cleaned up by the offending CAFO.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-29 10:43

    Lanny, no need to apologize for complaining. Indeed, digesting that permit and responding fully would take an awful lot of time.

    But you know, just sharing the anecdote you give above with DENR could be useful. Whatever conditions they place in the permit, DENR has to get serious about responding to complaints and inspecting permitted CAFOs. Maybe send that story to Pierre?

  3. Lanny V Stricherz 2015-10-29 11:21

    Thanks Cory, I posted my comment on line to the DENR. If one is going to post on line go to but don’t go to the ones for new permits. Stay on that first page and scan over half way down for the one about renewal of the existing CAFO permit.

    You mentioned the Mt Vernon situation. I would suggest that the one at Marty is equally as bad.

  4. Douglas Wiken 2015-10-29 11:39

    The regulations won’t mean diddly-squat if the agency is not provided measurement tools and funding.

  5. Les 2015-10-29 12:17

    SD DENR will do nothing without signed complaints on their official complaint forms. At that point the sludge is usually downstream and it is up to Iowa, Minn or nebraska etc to investigate.

  6. Paul Seamans 2015-10-29 20:18

    It would be interesting to know how many employees that DENR has now compared, to say, 10 years ago. One way that a party in power defeats an agency that they don’t agree with is simply to cut back the agency’s funding. Less funding means fewer workers to enforce governmental regulations. The DENR used to be there to protect our environment and natural resources. Now it seems that their purpose is to exploit these resources.

  7. mike from iowa 2015-10-30 07:40

    iowa has done similar stuff with our DNR,Paul. When new water pollution regs were approved,wingnuts in iowa refused to vote for the funding to pay for their enforcement. Many iowa Dems went along because iowa is ag driven to the exclusion of quality of life. I’m afraid South Dakota is going to get the same medicine.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-31 21:14

    Les, could we empower DENR employees to identify and act on pollution themselves? I suppose even with a bigger DENR budget, we couldn’t send DENR agents out to patrol every septic tank, feedlot, and gas station… could we? Doesn’t every DENR action have to start at some level with a citizen complaint? And to keep DENR from getting bogged down in frivolous complaints, do we need some formal written complaint to hold the complainer accountable?

  9. Les 2015-11-01 01:54

    Apply that logic to our police and fire departments, Cory.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-01 05:49

    Applying the investigative principle makes sense… although then I start thinking about petition violations: the Secretary of State is in charge of petitions but in 2014 claimed not to have the authority to investigate petition violations and had to hand off to the Attorney General… and this year, that seems to be the position the AG is taking: he won’t send DCI to investigate petition/circulation violations without a formal complaint with evidence from citizens first.

  11. Lanny V Stricherz 2015-11-01 06:37

    Cory, I asked to see D/L of petition circulators of the 18% cap on payday loans variety, here, knowing that they were clearly from out of state. They refused. I wonder if one complained to the PD, if they would ask to see the person’s D/L to prove that they were a SD citizen?

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-01 07:29

    Thanks for checking those circulators out, Lanny! As a circulator seeking signatures, I would be hard-pressed to refuse a reasonable request from any potential signer who can help me achieve my goal.

    If a circulator refuses to respond to a request to establish that he or she is legally circulating a petition, I would think that would form a reasonable basis for a citizen to report suspicion of illegal activity to the police.

    Now consider the police action I’m contemplating: do we threaten liberty by having police approach circulators and ask for ID any more than if we empower DENR inspectors to seek out illegal activity?

Comments are closed.