Capital Clicks

DNR drops fine against Ottumwa man for backyard junk

By: - September 22, 2022 12:32 pm

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources rescinded its fine for a rural Ottumwa man with a pit of trash in his back yard. (Photo by Anthony Kerker/Iowa DNR)

A rural Ottumwa man has cleaned a crater filled with junk in his backyard after the state levied a $7,000 fine against him in June after repeated requests to remove the trash, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

This month, the DNR rescinded the fine.

“We finally got his attention,” said Anthony Kerker, a DNR environmental specialist. “It took a little while.”

He said the man, Thomas Feltz, hired someone to excavate the trash — including old electronics, plastics and other garbage — from a hole that is about 20 feet wide. The backyard hole is what remains of a former grain silo.

Feltz bought the property just east of Ottumwa in 2017, county records show, and DNR says it’s likely that some of the junk was there when he bought it.

It’s illegal to accumulate such trash in places other than state-approved landfills. In August 2021, someone who lives in the area reported the collection of trash to the DNR, partly because of its bad smell.

DNR officers went to the property five times hoping to persuade Feltz to remedy the situation, but the department was unable to reach an agreement with him and ultimately imposed a stiff fine in June.

The fine was more severe than what the department recently levied against: a fuel company that contaminated water at a state park with diesel; a farmer who routinely overapplied fertilizer to his fields and endangered nearby streams; and a marina that excavated part of East Okoboji Lake without a permit.

Kerker said the site had been cleaned and the hole filled with soil when he returned to the property earlier this month.

The DNR recently amended its previous administrative order to remove the financial penalty.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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