Iowa lawsuit: Corn stover bales pose fire danger

Associated Press

NEVADA, Iowa (AP) — A central Iowa couple has filed a lawsuit claiming a potential fire threat from thousands of corn stover bales stored across a road from their home.

Burdell and Barbara Clark filed the suit in Story County District Court in Nevada, not far from their 42 acres of land, the Des Moines Register reported. The suit names DuPont, the owners of a $225 million cellulosic ethanol plant that’s being built. They’re storing the stover — corn leaves, stalks and other residue — for the plant.

The Clarks said DuPont has acted recklessly and carelessly in storing the “highly combustible corn stover” across from their home, and they’re trying to force them to move it. The couple said a March blaze threatened to spread to their property, and they fear another blaze could do so.

“Firefighters can’t put these fires out. They’ve got to just let them burn,” said Burdell Clark, who watched firefighters monitor the fire for hours. It smoldered for about a week. “It was a forest wildfire that never moved.”

The newspaper reported DuPont has had five fires at stover storage areas over three years. The company said it’s investigating the issue.

“We’re conducting extensive investigations to determine if additional safeguards are required at our stover storage locations to further ensure the safety of our employees, emergency responders and the community,” DuPont said in a statement.

The company has said it will need 700,000 bales of stover to feed its ethanol plant annually. They plan to collect it from nearby farmers.

The Clarks have a home, prairies, ponds and a stream on their property. They said the March fire, which burned about 5,200 bales, left blackened ash on their home. The couple wants the company to pay for damage on their property.

Burdell Clark said the stover pile will burn again.

“I worry the next time, it will take out everything,” he said.

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