High nitrate levels in Des Moines rivers threaten drinking water


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The Des Moines River. Photo by pdx3525; Flickr

Due to an increase of nitrate levels in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, the Des Moines Water Works has decided to stop drawing water from either river. Instead, the utility has been drawing water from Maffitt Reservoir, crystal Lake and aquifer storage wells.

As of this May, the Raccoon River in Des Moines reached its highest peak ever of 24 milligrams of nitrate per liter compared to its previous record of 22 and the Des Moines River reached 18 mg/L compared to its previous record of 14.2. The health standard for drinking water is 10 mg/L.

In response to these high levels of chemical in Iowa’s water supply, Des Moines Water Works started using its Nitrate Removal Facility, which hasn’t been active since 2007. The facility costs approximately $7,000 to operate each day. So far $500,000 have been spent towards water treatment.

As of last week, both rivers were about 17 mg/L.

To learn more about the nitrate levels of the rivers click here.

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