Skip to main content
Press Release

United States Sues Iowa CAFO and its Owner for Alleged Clean Water Act Violations, including Discharging Manure into a Water of the United States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

Meadowvale Dairy, LLC (Meadowvale), and its owner, Sjerp Ysselstein, have been sued by the United States on four counts of alleged Clean Water Act violations.­  The claims are contained in a Civil Complaint filed on February 26, 2016, in United States District Court in Sioux City.  The Complaint alleges that Ysselstein operates Meadowvale, which has concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) near Rock Valley.

The Complaint alleges that Meadowvale Dairy, LLC owns and operates two National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitted, interconnected CAFOs as part of a dairy operation with a combined total of approximately 10,000 head of cattle on a combined 185 acres in northwestern Iowa.

On June 19, 2014, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (State) conducted an inspection at one of Meadowvale’s CAFOs and observed manure and process wastewater spilling over the walls of a concrete bunker used to store manure.  The manure and process wastewater then discharged into an unnamed tributary of the Big Sioux River.

Other discharges into a tributary of the Big Sioux River occurred on July 21, 2014, and July 22, 2014.  Specifically, on July 21, 2014, the State received reports of an unauthorized discharge into a tributary of the Big Sioux River.  Then, on July 22, 2014, the State observed manure laden process wastewater flowing into the same tributary.  The State sampled the tributary at four downstream locations, and the results at all four locations showed elevated levels of Escherichia coli (E.coli), a pathogen found in manure and process wastewater.

The Complaint also alleges that Meadowvale failed to comply with certain requirements of its NPDES-permit, namely, maintaining depth-markers or emptying settled open feedlot effluent basins (SOFEBs).  SOFEBs store solids and wastewater to prevent the discharge of these pollutants into surrounding waters.

Since 2001, the State has issued 12 notice-of-violations to Meadowvale for violations of its permit, including repeated failures to maintain adequate storage capacity in the facilities’ SOFEBs.  The State has reported discharges from the facilities into waters of the United States on at least five separate occasions with high levels of E.coli, fecal coliform, ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS).  Meadowvale’s unauthorized discharges have resulted in three penalty actions by the State in 2003, 2005 and 2010.  On at least two separate dates, Meadowvale’s discharges also resulted in reported fish kills.         

In the Complaint, the United States seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief.  A trial date has not been set.

As with any civil case, a Complaint is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed not liable until shown otherwise.

The case is being handled by Zachary N. Moor, Trial Attorney for the Environmental Enforcement Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Christopher Muehlberger, Attorney, Office of Regional Counsel, United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, and Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek.  The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Court file information at 

The case file number is 5:16-cv-4016-LTS.

Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.

Updated March 1, 2016