Investigation finds high radon levels in U.S. classrooms


Radon detector. Photo by Nils Reiter, Flickr.

An investigation by MSNBC found that many schools around the nation, including in Iowa, have high radon levels and rarely test their radon concentration.

One of the stories told in the report describes the experience of an Iowa teacher who developed lung cancer. After the diagnosis, she tested the radon levels in her home and school – both were high.

Radon exposure is a major issue in our state. The EPA estimates that 21,000 American die every year from radon exposure. Iowa has the highest concentrations of radon in the nation.

Read the full article here.

Check out our radio segment on radon here.

Iowa DNR worried about state’s water supply


Photo by whatmeworry101, Flickr.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is concerned that Iowa’s underground water supplies might not be sufficient enough to meet the demand created by urban sprawl and a growing biofuels industry.

These concerns stem from the DNR’s effort to inventory and measure Iowa’s network of aquifers – a project that began four years ago, and is the first large-scale effort of it’s kind.

“We can now look 20 to 30 years into the future with the models we are developing,” state geologist Robert Libra said. “We’re telling people, ‘You may not be able to produce the water you’re counting on.’ It’s a call to take a smart tool and plan. These towns need water. The towns need businesses. The businesses need water.”

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

2011 Iowa DNR projects reduce sediment reaching our waterways by 20,000 tons


Centennial Bridge over the Mississippi River in Davenport, IA. Photo by ercwttmn, Flickr

Projects funded by the DNR in 2011 will keep over 20,000 tons of soil out of Iowa’s waterways each year. Additionally, these conservation projects will reduce the phosphorous and nitrogen reaching the waterways by 27,164 pounds per year and 41,881 pounds per year respectively.

Since 2004, DNR funded projects have reduced sediment reaching Iowa’s waterways by 175,867 tons.

These conservation projects include creating wetlands, ponds, terraces and buffers.

Read the full press release from the Iowa DNR here.

Iowa colleges participate in Recycle Mania


Photo by University of Maryland Press Releases, Flickr

Beginning last month and continuing till the end of March, Loras College, Simpson College, Wartburg College, University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Mount Mercy University, Upper Iowa University and Grinnell College are all competing in Recycle Mania.

These schools are competing to see who can recycle the most per capita, who has the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and who has the least amount of combined trash and recycling at the end of eight weeks.

Through two weeks, campuses across the nation have reduced the equivalent of 18,522 metric tons of CO2.

Read more about Wartburg College’s efforts here. Last year, Wartburg started a $2 million project focused on environmental sustainability.

On the Radio: Our national bird’s troubled history


Photo by Larry Meade, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s discusses the troubled history and promising future of the bald eagle in Iowa.

Did you know that less than 40 years ago there were zero bald eagles nesting in Iowa?

Continue reading

Some of Iowa’s hazardous waste is being dumped in Illinois to avoid Iowa’s regulations


The I-74 Bridge connecting Iowa and Illinois. Photo by sailorwind, Flickr.

A report from WQAD indicates that some organizations and people in Iowa are taking their hazardous materials to Iowa in order to avoid Iowa’s stricter regulations.

The demanufacturers in Iowa are carefully monitored, and apply fees for the removal of toxic waste such as PCB’s, mercury and Freon. The Illinois demanufacturers are given more freedom.

WQAD sent a reporter to one Illinois demanufacturer with hazardous waste material, and the company disposed of the waste without first removing the toxic chemicals.

See the video of WQAD’s trip to the Illinois demanufacturer here.

Iowa school districts receive grants to reduce diesel emissions


Photo by Twix, Flickr.

A total of $280,359 in grants will be awarded to seven Iowa school districts to reduce diesel emissions on school bus engines.

The funding will be provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Diesel Campaign.

The districts to receive the grants include: Albert City-Truesdale in Buena Vista County, East Union in Union County, North Iowa in Winnebago County, Rock Valley in Sioux County, West Harrison in Harrison County,  Westwood in Woodbury County, and Sibley-Ocheyedan in Osceola County.

For more information, read the full DNR news release.

Iowa DNR tracks northern pike to determine best places to dredge


Photo by Travis S., Flickr

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is using radio tracking to determine what habitats are important to northern pike.

In the winter, northern pike need slow moving water with adequate oxygen to survive. However, sediment fills in many of these areas that the pike seek, making the areas uninhabitable.

The DNR uses dredging to get rid of the sediment, but the process is expensive and, consequently, only a few areas will receive dredging. The radio tracking helps the DNR decide which areas are most in need of the dredging – if they find a high-concentration of northern pike in a location, there is a greater chance that they will choose to dredge that location.

Read the full article about the Iowa DNR’s radio tracking here.

Deer harvest reduced for sixth consecutive year


Photo by BugDNA, Flickr.

Iowa hunters reported harvesting 121,407 deer during the 2011-2012 hunting seasons – a 4.5 percent drop from the 127,094 deer harvested in 2010 – 2011. Since 2006, Iowa’s deer population has dropped by 30 percent.

“Deer numbers in many areas are near or below the department’s objective,” said Dale Garner, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau. “We are hearing complaints from hunters that they are not seeing the number of deer that they had in the past and some are voicing their concerns that the herd reduction may have gone too far.”

This spring, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources intends to review the population surveys and take appropriate action.

For more information, read the full DNR news release.

Video: UI engineering student tries to become America’s Next Eco-Star


UI student Elliott Beenk hopes to become America’s Next Eco-Star. Students around the nation are submitting videos about why they should be America’s Next Eco-Star. SmartPower and the U.S. Department of Energy sponsor the contest, and the winner will receive a paid trip this summer to the Sustainable Futures Academy in Germany, and a fellowship with SmartPower.

Beenk is an Environmental Engineering graduate student. He hopes to eventually work with music festivals to help them become more sustainable.

Read the Press-Citizen’s article about Beenk and the contest here.