The Iowa Manure Management Action Group (IMMAG) offers suggestions to help calm producers’ nerves and provide practical information to help prepare for a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) inspection. Ken Hessenius, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says even though many producers will initially respond to the news that they are about to be visited/inspected by an environmental specialist from the DNR with panic and a strong desire to go into hiding, such inspections need not be something to dread. He suggests that producers look at the inspection as an opportunity to interact with the DNR official and work toward improving the environmental performance of the facility. “Visits or inspections from the DNR can be an important tool for you to use in the overall management of your farm,” Hessenius says.
DNR visits may be part of a routine manure management plan or earthen basin inspection, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) or compliance inspection. The visit may also be the result of a spill that the producer reported, or perhaps stems from a complaint that has been registered with the DNR. Hessenius advises producers to stay calm and remember to always be truthful and forthcoming in any interaction with the DNR. “Rest assured, they are only interested in compliance with the rules and regulations. It is their goal to help you remain in or come into compliance,” he says.
The inspection process varies, depending upon the type of inspection or visit. Some inspections/visits, such as a basin inspection, for example, could take as little as 15 minutes, while a NDPES inspection may take a full day.
Hessenius says each type of visit or inspection has several things in common. In most cases, producers will receive a phone call a minimum of 1-3 working days prior to the visit/inspection in Iowa. Exceptions to that notification time may include spill investigations or complaints, depending upon the circumstances.
The environmental specialist should offer credentials, explain the scope of the visit and give an estimate of the time that will be required for an inspection. They should also ask about biosecurity protocols a producer has in-place at the facility.
Hessenius says, depending upon the type of inspection, the DNR environmental specialist will tour the facility and observe areas for environmental compliance. “Generally speaking, they are most interested in manure storage areas and structures, and any potential areas of runoff,” he says. “They may ask for records during a manure management plan or NPDES inspection.
The inspecting official may take pictures of the facility for documentation. Samples may also be taken in the event of a runoff. After the visit/inspection is completed, there will be an exit interview. The environmental specialist will talk with the producer about any compliance issues discovered during the meeting. They may give recommendations to improve the environmental performance of the facility.
Hessenius tells producers to answer questions honestly. “Conversely, please feel free to ask the DNR inspector any questions you may have. It is important to have a dialogue with them.”
See additional suggestions and inspection preparation details at the IMMAG Web site.
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