Iowa district court: DNR failed to uphold water anti-degradation standards

Water Works Park in Des Moines.
Water Works Park in Des Moines.
KC McGinnis | March 29, 2016

An Iowa district court ruled that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources did not hold up Iowa’s clean water standards in its recent approval of a wastewater treatment plant in Clarion.

The decision, which came earlier this month, will force the DNR to revisit their analysis of Clarion’s wastewater treatment project proposal. The DNR had approved the least expensive option presented by Clarion for its plant expansions without adequately considering Iowa’s clean water anti-degradation standards, as it is required to do, the court found.

The judicial review came after an attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center filed a petition on behalf of the Iowa Environmental Council. They argued that alternative plans submitted by Clarion would have reduced nitrate and phosphorous pollution in waterways that eventually make their way to the Des Moines River. This year nitrate pollution in the Des Moines River has well outpaced previous years, with 13,000 metric tons of nitrate passing through Des Moines every day since the beginning of March — a level that wasn’t reached until June of 2015 and September of 2014. Iowa’s clean water anti-degradation standards, a requirement under the Clean Water Act, compel the DNR to more thoroughly consider alternative options that may increase environmental benefits, the court found.

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