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Posts Tagged ‘Iowa water quality’

Iowa Has A Water Problem

Iowa Row Crops

Iowa Row Crops

DES MOINES—”We have a water problem,” Mayor Frank Cownie said at the state convention of the League of Women Voters of Iowa on Saturday.

Like all municipalities, the Des Moines Water Works must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency standards for maximum contaminant level in water processed and sent into its system. Peak nitrate levels in source waters have taxed the city’s ability to meet its obligations.

The problem is nitrates in the water, however, the bigger problem for Des Moines is nitrate discharge into drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties which feed its source.

“The current denitrification technology is outdated and cannot continue to operate with rising nitrate levels and increased customer demand.” according to the Des Moines Water Works. “Continued high nitrate concentrations will require future capital investments of $76-183 million to remove the pollutant and provide safe drinking water to a growing central Iowa.”

Nitrate runoff is an unrecognized environmental cost of farm operations. The lawsuit filed in the case asserts that the drainage districts named are point sources of nitrate runoff and should be regulated as such.

There is a lot of chatter about the lawsuit the Des Moines Water Works filed to establish a cost to people who use nitrogen fertilizer that contributes to water pollution. Here is their rationale from their website:

  • Des Moines Water Works filed a complaint in Federal District Court – Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, on March 16, 2015.
  • The complaint seeks to declare the named drainage districts are “point sources,” not exempt from regulation, and are required to have a permit under federal and Iowa law.
  • The complaint states that the drainage districts have violated and continue to be in violation of the Clean Water Act and Chapter 455B, Code of Iowa, and demands the drainage districts take all necessary actions, including ceasing all discharges of nitrate that are not authorized by an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • In addition, damages are demanded to Des Moines Waters to compensate for the harm caused by the drainage districts unlawful discharge of nitrate, assess civil penalties, and award litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees to Des Moines Water Works as authorized by law.
  • Des Moines Water Works’ mission is to provide safe, abundant and affordable water to our customers. Des Moines Water Works is fighting for the protection of customers’ right to safe drinking water. Through this legal process, Des Moines Water Works hopes to reduce long-term health risks and unsustainable economic costs to provide safe drinking water to our customers, via permit and regulation of drainage districts as pollutant sources.
  • Continued insistence from state leaders that the voluntary approach of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is working does not give solace to the 500,000 central Iowans who must now pay to remove pollution from their drinking water.

While this lawsuit is specific to Des Moines, there are a lot of unrecognized environmental costs in diverse business operations. Set all the partisan chatter about this issue aside and the fact remains there is a tangible cost, that someone should pay. It is a cost measured in risks to human health, environmental degradation and inadequate financial models in business.

Thanks to the Des Moines Water Works, we can begin to put a dollar figure to it.

Water Summit March 21st

Water quality is one of the most important environmental issues facing Iowa today. But understanding the many different issues and aspects involved in it can be difficult.

Quad Citians have a rare opportunity to learn more and have their questions answered at the March 21st Water Summit: An Environmental Event Focusing on Iowa’s Water Quality. Hosted by Davenport SCENE, the event will be held in the Davenport West High School Auditorium, 1 – 3 p.m., and is free to the public.

A panel of five experts from the agricultural community, local and state government, and private business has been selected to lead the discussion and answer questions. All five are intimately involved in issues dealing with water quality across the state of Iowa.

Attendees to the event will increase their understanding of water issues, and learn how Iowans can respond to improve and protect our water quality.

The panelists include:

Sean McMahon, Executive Director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA). The IAWA is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing the success of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy by increasing farmer awareness of the initiative and their adoption of science-based practices proven to have quantifiable environmental benefits. It was created and is funded by the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Pork Producers Association.

As executive director, McMahon works to champion farmer adoption and engagement in conservation and production practices for continuous improvement of nutrient management and water quality.

Randy Moore, President, Iowa American Water Company and Member of the EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC). Iowa American Water is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing water services to approximately 195,000 people. In his role, Moore works to strengthen customer, regulatory and local government relationships, drives operational and financial results and is the principal external contact for American Water in Iowa.

NDWAC provides practical and independent advice to the U.S. EPA on matters and policies related to drinking water, including regulations and guidance required by the Safe Drinking Water Act. The council may also propose actions to encourage cooperation and communication on drinking water quality among the EPA and other governmental agencies, interested groups, the public and technical associations and organizations.

Dr. Mary Skopec, Senior Research Scientist for the Water Monitoring and Assessment Section (WMAS) at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources/Geological Survey Bureau (GSB) and Coordinator of the IOWATER Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program. At the GSB, she has worked on a variety of water quality projects including the development of a statewide database to track pesticide occurrences in Iowa’s water resources. Dr. Skopec currently coordinates the WMAS analyses of data from the statewide Ambient Water Monitoring Program.

IOWATER is a project of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources. It trains volunteers to conduct basic water chemical, physical and biological measurements. Its mission is to protect and improve Iowa’s water quality by raising citizen awareness about Iowa’s watersheds, supporting and encouraging the growth and networking of Iowa’s volunteer water monitoring communities, and promoting water monitoring activities as a means of assessing and understanding Iowa’s aquatic resources.

Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works (DMWW). Stowe has served in his current position since 2012. His previous positions include Assistant Manager-Public Works/Engineering for the City of Des Moines, Human Resources Director for the City of Des Moines, Operations Manager for MidAmerican Energy, as well as an analyst for Shell Oil, labor relations representative for Inland Steel Industries and a field examiner for the National Labor Relations Board.

Dr. Franics Thicke, Owner/Operator of Radiance Dairy and member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). An organic farmer for more than 30 years, Dr. Thicke currently operates an 80-cow, certified organic dairy in Fairfield, producing milk, cream, yogurt and cheese for sale at local grocery stores and restaurants. He has been active in many organic and environmental organizations including the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Leopold Group Sierra Club in Southeast Iowa, Food Democracy Now, the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.

NOSB is a Federal Advisory Committee whose members are appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The NOSB advises USDA on which substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic farming and processing, based on criteria under the Organic Foods Production Act. As a member of NOSB, Dr. Thicke also serves on its Environmentalist/Resource Conservationists Subcommittee.

Davenport SCENE (Sustainable City Empowered Network for Education) is supported by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Davenport SCENE is a unique partnership of several local agencies including Eastern Iowa Community Colleges/Scott Community College Library and the college’s Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center, Figge Art Museum, Davenport Public Library, Nahant Marsh Educational Center, Quad Cities Food Hub, Junior Achievement, Living Lands and Waters, and River Music Experience.

The goal of the partnership is to advance the science and information literacy of Davenport residents of all ages regarding environmental sustainability and energy efficiency in order to move Davenport toward becoming a sustainable city.

For more information call 563-441-4150.

Letter To Iowa Landowners Along Proposed Pipeline Route

photo credit:

Kelcy Warren’s Dallas, TX mansion-photo:

Letter to Landowners
Posted on March 9, 2015 by Ed Fallon

This is the letter Ed is sharing with landowners and others he meets along the pipeline route.

Dear Fellow Iowan,

As I’m sure you know, a Texas billionaire named Kelcy Warren wants to build an oil pipeline through Iowa. I am walking across Iowa following roads near the path of the proposed pipeline. As a state lawmaker for 14 years, I worked to toughen eminent domain laws to protect property owners when government and developers tried to take land for private gain. I also served on the House Environmental Protection Committee because I care deeply about Iowa’s land and water.

Warren is offering landowners a lot of money for an easement to their land. But it’s important that you and other landowners in the path of the pipeline know the risks involved.

* Pipelines break. You may have heard about the big ones, like Yellowstone and Kalamazoo. But the full list of spills is incredible (See Wikipedia: “List of pipeline accidents in the United States in the 21st century”). It’s not a question of if Warren’s pipeline will break, it’s a question of when and where.

* When the pipeline does break, there isn’t enough money to clean-up even one spill. Warren’s company has pledged only $250,000 to clean-up efforts in Iowa. The Kalamazoo spill has cost almost $1 billion – and it’s not done yet. In Wisconsin, the pipeline company pledged $100 million – for one county!

* Even if the pipeline doesn’t break on your land, it will still affect your property values. No one has ever seen their property values increase because an oil pipeline ran through it.

* You won’t be the only one affected if something goes wrong. Iowa’s water is important to us all.

There are many unanswered questions and potential problems. The pipeline company wants you to think this is a done deal, that you should just sell them an easement to your land. But the Utilities Board hasn’t even granted them the right of eminent domain. And there is a bipartisan bill in the Iowa Legislature that would, among other things, make it clear that a pipeline carrying oil from North Dakota to refineries in Texas (most of which will be exported) does not constitute a public benefit for Iowa.

I talked to one farmer who’s against it because it goes through the pasture where he wants to build a home for his grand kids. I talked with another landowner whose forest would be decimated. I met a couple who were going to lose their home to the pipeline before they found a loophole that protected them. I have spoken with many other landowners, each with their own reason why they hope and pray that this pipeline will be stopped.

For the sake of these and many, many other landowners – and for your own sake – I ask you to carefully consider whether it’s worth a one-time cash payment, given the potential long-term damage to your property, your neighbors and Iowa’s waterways.

Thank you for reading this letter. I would be happy to talk with or meet with you or any of your neighbors. Here’s my cell phone number: 515-238-6404. And you also can reach me at


Ed Fallon

What If The Governor Gave A Speech And Nobody Cared?

cat care-o-meter“Vice President Joe Biden often says ‘Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.’ The Governor’s budget is a perfect example of Iowa values not being reflected in a state budget,” said Citizens for a Healthy Iowa Executive Director Mark Langgin.

 “Governor Branstad doesn’t place a high value on investing in our natural resources to protect sources of clean drinking water and water for recreation & industry. There are over 600 impaired rivers, lakes and streams statewide, and source water from Iowa’s largest city contains dangerously high levels of nitrate. We need sustained long-term funding for clean water – and investing less than 25 cents per acre in dedicated water quality money is not enough to protect Iowans health and quality of life.”

Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement In response to the Governor’s remarks, which also failed to mention poverty or minimum wage:

“Governor Branstad failed middle class Iowans today. He refused to even say the words ‘middle class’ while at the same time heaping praise on a number of out of state corporations. The Governor’s priorities are completely out of step with everyday Iowans, who know that the foundation of our economy and our state’s success is a strong and growing middle class.”

“Governor Branstad’s distorted jobs math proves that he has no respect for working Iowans. The Governor inflates the number of jobs created by not counting jobs that have been lost, insulting every Iowan who has lost work during his term in office. An accurate accounting of Iowa’s job growth is less than half as many as the Governor claims.”

“The Governor also refused to bring up a minimum wage increase, or acknowledge the 300,000 workers who would benefit from an increase. Unfortunately, minimum wage workers in Iowa have waited longer than those in any other state for a raise.”

“Governor Branstad’s refusal to mention the middle class, poverty, or minimum wage during his Condition of the State address today was disappointing but not surprising. His failure to prioritize the needs of middle class working families has never been more clear.”

Paul Deaton took a larger, more philosophical view on the Governor’s remarks, so today we give Paul and Plato the last word.

A couple of progressive web commenters complained that Branstad used fallacious job creation numbers and made no mention of “middle class priorities” like increasing the minimum wage. There was a decided lack of interest in the speech, so few were likely listening to the commentators or the governor.

No one is listening. There is a lack of interest in government among a middle class that makes up most of 3.1 million Iowans. If some have their interests, written on a legislative agenda, most do not. The disinterest goes beyond what the 86th Iowa General Assembly does or does not accomplish.

The bubble in which we Americans live is real and is becoming the ridicule of the world. It is as if we took what’s best about our country and locked it up in a strongbox to protect it from those who might steal it. We venture from our borders to loot planetary resources, wage war and assert hegemony where we can. We have become exceptional in these things and our culture is the less for it.

Plaato quote


Iowans Carol For Clean Water

cci  Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement


Manure Spills Causing Toxic Algae In More Iowa Lakes

email inboxThanks CCI (Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement) for sounding the alarm on toxic algae!

First it was Ohio, then Lake Red Rock in Iowa, and now it’s Big Creek Lake – toxic blue-green algae has struck again.

A reader sent us this photo that he took at Big Creek Lake last week with this comment: “Can see from the photo that water quality is one of Branstad and the DNRs’ top priorities…”

The toxic algae’s unpleasant odors and potentially dangerous health effects cannot be ignored.

blue-green toxic algae EMAIL(1)This toxic algae growth is caused by runoff from corporate ag, including factory farms.

When we look at the number of manure spills, just in the past year, the growth of this harmful algae is not surprising.

55 manure spills since Sept. 2013 when the DNR signed the Clean Water Act Work Plan – that’s over 1 manure spill per week. ​​​

The DNR must issue permits to these manure polluters – here is one action you take right now:

Share this photo on FB to keep the #cleanwaterfight in the public eye!

October is going to be a busy month for the #cleanwaterfight – stay tuned!

They DUMP it, you DRINK it, we won’t stop ’til they clean it up,

The Iowa CCI Crew

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
2001 Forest Ave
Des Moines, IA 50311-3229
515-282-0484 .

Iowa Water Quality Public Hearings This Week

cciHere’s a note from CCI:

The rule passed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) two weeks ago brings Iowa closer into compliance with the Clean Water Act for the first time ever. But, it can be stronger, and the DNR must enforce it. That’s where your voice comes in!

The DNR is gathering Iowans’ thoughts on improving the state’s water quality goals as part of its three-year review of water quality standards and goals.

Can you attend a water quality hearing and remind the DNR what must be done for a Clean Water Iowa?

These public meetings are being held in the following places:

Today! Sept. 3, 4 to 6 p.m.
Spencer Public Library (Round Room), 21 East Third St.

Thursday, Sept. 4, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Washington Public Library (Nicholas Stoufer Room), 115 West Washington

West Des Moines
Monday, Sept. 8, 10 to 12 p.m.
West Des Moines Public Library (Community Room), 4000 Mills Civic Parkway

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Falcon Civic Center, 1305 Fifth Ave. NE

Clear Lake
Tuesday, Sept. 9, 4 to 6 p.m.
Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Lakeview Room, 10 North Lakeview Drive

Here is what we need to make sure the DNR doesn’t forget:

You must ramp up the inspections to find and fix problems at factory farms.
You must issue clean water act permits to all factory farms.
There must be tough fines and penalties for polluters.
Of course, tell the DNR why clean water is important to you personally!

They DUMP it, you DRINK it, we won’t stop ’til they clean it up,

The Iowa CCI Crew

P.S. Can’t make one of the hearings? Submit written comments by Oct. 15 to: Rochelle Weiss, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 502 East Ninth St., Des Moines, IA 50319, or by e-mailing

Iowa, We Have A Water Problem

“Because of runoff from our farms, we have more than 600 polluted rivers, lakes and streams, causing a nitrate surge in our drinking water.”  Find out more here:


This Week On The Fallon Forum: ISU Police Chase, Water, Climate Change, SNAP

fallon forumDear Friends,

The police chase and shooting death on the Iowa State University campus last week has been the subject of much conversation, not just in Iowa but across the country. Was the use of deadly force by the police officer justified? What was going on in the driver’s mind as he was tearing around campus? At what point does one’s vehicle become a deadly weapon?

Monday, attorney Joseph Glazebrook and Dr. Charles Goldman join me to analyze the tragic event at ISU last week. We also discuss the Greece v. Galloway case before the U.S. Supreme Court, addressing prayer at city council meetings.

Tuesday, local farmer Mark Peterson joins us to discuss water quality, and Suman Hoque with HoQ Restaurant talks about the growth in the local foods movement. We may also weigh-in on the debate over SNAP, a.k.a., food stamps.

Wednesday, we talk with Jon Neiderbach, who is throwing his hat into the race for State Auditor on the Democratic ticket. We also discuss climate change in light of the tragic typhoon which struck the Philippines last week.

Thursday, we talk with Joe Henry, candidate for Des Moines City Council in the upcoming special election. We also talk with Joe about the efforts of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) and other organizations to confront voter suppression, both here in Iowa and most egregiously in Texas.

Join us live, Monday-Thursday, from 6:00-6:30 pm on the Fallon Forum website. Call-in at (855) 244-0077 and add your voice to the dialogue. Video and audio-only podcasts available after the program. The Fallon Forum also can be heard on KHOI 89.1 (Ames) Wednesdays at 5:00 pm and KPVL 89.1 (Postville) Wednesdays at 7:00 pm. Thanks!


This Week On The Fallon Forum: Elections, Climate Change, Water Quality, Gun Safety

fallon forum Tuesday is a big day in Iowa. It’s Election Day, and in 950 cities across the state, voters will elect city council members and, in some cases, mayors. If recent trends are any indication, turnout will be embarrassingly low. Voting tomorrow is a good idea for three reasons:

1. Voting makes a difference! Lest we forget, George Bush beat Al Gore by only 200 votes in the 2000 General Election. (Okay, the other school of thought says Bush didn’t actually win but was appointed by the US Supreme Court. But we won’t go there today.) And as a state lawmaker I sat between Becky Reynolds, who won her first election by 142 votes, and Bill Witt, who won his first election by only 16 votes. Iowa is a better place because of their service.

2. Local officials are (or should be) accessible. Arguably, local government has a more profound impact on our day-to-day lives than any other level of government. You can call Des Moines City Councilman Skip Moore and say, “Hey Skip, what’s this bug eating my redbud tree?” There’s a good chance Skip’ll be out there to look at your tree the next day. Try getting that kind of response from your state or federal elected officials.

3. Democracy depends on it! Sure, there are plenty of other things democracy depends on. Freedom of speech. The right to assemble. Public education. Strong local economies. Baseball. But who we elect to represent us, the folks in charge of enacting laws and ordinances, is critical. We want good people doing that, do we not? Letting a bunch of zombies run city government is not going to be good for you or your redbud tree. Fortunately, in Des Moines at least, we are not at risk of zombies winning any of the three seats on the ballot. All of the candidates are respectable, non-flesh eating types. And I thank those who came on my program and share their views: Skip Moore, Cal Woods, Chris Diebel, Bill Gray and Jean Minahan.

Monday, Jonathan Neiderbach and I preview this week’s Des Moines City Council election. We also look at the $81 million proposal for courthouse improvements and expansion in Polk County. We take a look at some of the city council races in metro suburbs as well.

Tuesday, we have an extended program (5:30-6:30) and discuss last week’s developments on the climate-change front. We talk with Kathleen McQuillen of American Friends Service Committee about drones. Josh Mandelbaum of the Environmental Law and Policy Center joins us to discuss the ongoing conflict over Iowa’s water quality. And Cheryl Thomas with Iowans for Gun Safety weighs in on the latest tragic school shooting in Nevada.

Wednesday, Graham Gillette joins Jonathan Neiderbach and me for a review of the outcome of Tuesday’s election. We also discuss the shape of next year’s statewide and federal elections. And we remind folks of the upcoming Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit on November 9th at Drake University.

Thursday, State Rep. Dan Kelley is back in the studio with us. And we talk with Michael Garvin with the Caribbean Renewable Energy Consortium.

Join us live, Monday-Thursday, from 6:00-6:30 pm on the Fallon Forum website. Call-in at (855) 244-0077 and add your voice to the dialogue. Video and audio-only podcasts available after the program. The Fallon Forum also can be heard on KHOI 89.1 (Ames) Wednesdays at 5:00 pm and KPVL 89.1 (Postville) Wednesdays at 7:00 pm. Thanks!