Iowa Environmental Council seeks action on Cedar Rapids Sewage Plant

The Iowa Environmental Council is concerned that a newly proposed wastewater discharge permit for the Cedar Rapids sewage plant does not adequately restrict mercury and ammonia levels in the waters.

It requests that Iowans with similar reservations share them with the DNR by writing a letter.

Here is a more detailed summary of the council’s concerns:

1. The Cedar River, at Palisades Kepler State Park and 2.3 miles downstream of the Cedar Rapids wastewater discharge, is listed as an impaired state water due to declining mussel populations. Ammonia is highly toxic to mussels. Yet, the proposed permitted ammonia limits are higher than allowed in the current permit and range from 3-13 times greater than what draft EPA guidance suggests to prevent harm to mussels.

2. The newly proposed mercury limits in the permit are above the water quality standard for a stream where fish are routinely caught for human consumption. Mercury is a toxin that can accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish. Elevated levels of mercury have been found in several species of fish near or below the Cedar Rapids Sewage Treatment Plant wastewater discharge.

Iowans who eschew indirect communication can speak at a public hearing on the permit at 7:00 p.m. on December 14.

For more information, check the council’s website.

Iowa nets funds for Mississippi River preservation

photo via National Park Service

Iowa will get a $8.4 million chunk of more than $43 million of federal money that will improve conservation efforts along the Mississippi River.

More from the Iowa Independent:

Eligible farmers and landowners will soon have some help implementing projects that protect the Mississippi River Basin.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Monday that more than $43 million will be provided to 12 states along the Mississippi River to help fund more than 70 existing conservation projects in 41 eligible watersheds.  The initiative supports the USDA’s continuing efforts to help landowners and farmers protect and improve water quality from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico….

On the Radio: Growing Iowa’s energy independence

Photo from Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance via Wikimedia Commons

Listen to this week’s radio clip. It details the efforts of Iowa farmers to reduce electricity use across the state.

These days, crops aren’t all that Iowa’s farmers are growing. They’re making Iowa more energy independent too.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

This year, more than 400 Iowans have netted loans and grants, through the Rural Energy for America Program, for projects that will save and generate energy for farmers and businesses.

The projects include those geared toward wind energy production or updating or replacing outdated equipment to reduce electricity use.

One Black Hawk County farmer will install a 20 kilowatt wind turbine to power his farming operation. Another farmer in Monona will install energy-saving robotic equipment for milking.

It’s these efforts that will ensure Iowans a greener future.

For more information, visit

I’m Jerry Schnoor with the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank You.

IEF Exclusive: Despite high emotions, tar sands refinery near Iowa border far from realized

Pristine Elk Point, SD is the site of a cross-state dispute over an oil refinery that may not be built for years, if at all. (Photo: The City of Elk Point, SD.)

By Jim Malewitz

Elk Point was never in the spotlight before. But for three years, this quiet South Dakota town of just 750 families and a handful of restaurants has become the focal point in a dispute over a proposed 400,000 barrel-a-day tar sands oil refinery.

It would be the first tar sands plant built the United States since 1976.

Proposed by Dallas-based Hyperion LLC, the refinery has spurred an ideological clash between those hoping to add jobs to a still stagnant economy and those concerned about the health of the near pristine environment of this town, just 15 miles Southwest of Sioux City, and its nearby national parks and recreation areas.

Tar sands is an extra dark, heavy oil that researchers like Scott Spak, at the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, call “absolutely filthy.” Hyperion has said the refinery will use new technology that will limit emissions.

Disagreements over the proposal haven’t been confined to Elk Point or surrounding Union County, where 58 percent of voters approved a zoning ordinance that set aside 3,292 acres of land for the Hyperion refinery. Bickering over the refinery has crept across the border into Iowa and into the rhetoric of lawmakers, and was heightened by the recent midterm elections.

But a review of documents on Hyperion’s permitting process show that the refinery likely won’t be built for years, if at all. Since announcing Elk Point as a finalist for the refinery in June 2007, Hyperion has received just one of seven major permits required for its operation, and even that permit is tenuous. Continue reading

Anti-climate change report said to have been plagiarized

Graphic Source: Wikimedia Commons

A 2006 report that was used to question the validity of climate change research likely breeched basic scholarly ethics.

From the USA Today:

An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.


Review of the 91-page report by three experts contacted by USA TODAY found repeated instances of passages lifted word for word and what appear to be thinly disguised paraphrases….

On the Radio: Growing Trees, Cleaning Iowa

A view of a section of poplar trees that grow on Licht's land in North Liberty.

Listen to this week’s radio spot on Lou Licht, who uses trees to clean up the land, water and air. For more information on Licht, check out the Iowa Independent, or read this interview with him: The Accidental Capitalist.

Planting trees: A proven way to clean up Iowa’s land and water – and save money.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa-native Lou Licht is the founder of Ecolotree, an engineering firm that uses trees to clean up toxic sites.

He’s the first person in the world to do so.

Ecolotree has cleaned up landfills, brown fields, and hazardous waste sites around the world.  The idea can also help curb farm runoff that pollutes Iowa’s rivers and streams.

Licht’s low-cost, quick-growing poplar trees could be a solution for many Iowa towns that need to upgrade their out-dated sewer systems.

It goes to show that sometimes you can save a little green by going green.

For more information, visit

I’m Jerry Schnoor with the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you.

From our office, a real-time glimpse at adaptation to Iowa’s changing weather

Over the past few days, we’ve gotten a live-action look at climate change adaptation from the comfort of our offices. As some of us gaze out the windows of Iowa Advanced Technology Labs on the UI campus, we can see a crew working hard to build a flood wall along the Iowa River.

As Iowa sees more extreme weather, including heavy rains, we know that the river will spill its banks again.

Joe Bolkcom, CGRER’s Outreach and Community Education Director, took a few shots from inside and outside of his office. The pictures are especially poignant today, as UI officials are expected to announce a new cost estimate from the 2008 floods that will exceed $743 million.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And speaking of climate change, check out this great interactive feature from the New York Times: As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas.