June 1, 2018

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has slashed the fine it imposed for a rural Auburn cattle farmer’s manure runoff — cutting it from $6,000 to $2,000 — into a tile intake after the farmer took measures to prevent it from happening again.

The department fined Jason Wernimont, 46, in November for allowing polluted water to enter the intake that leads to a stream that flows into the North Raccoon River, according to an administrative order.

Farmers use underground tiling to move excess water from their fields. Western Iowa has a significant amount of tiling because it was once dotted by wetlands.

Wernimont has a feedlot with a capacity of about 950 cattle about 3 miles south of Auburn. He told the department in 2014 he would remove the tile intake but instead put a bucket over it to keep the runoff from going into it. Water eroded a channel under the bucket.

An environmental specialist for the department went back to the farm in April and saw that tile intakes had been removed and capped and that unused wells had been plugged.

A new administrative order in May cut the fine to $2,000 — to be paid in $250 installments every three months.