Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Drinking Water Sources


Elyse Gabor | May 20, 2022

Neonicotinoid Insecticides have been found in Iowa’s drinking water. This pesticide is the most used in the world as it is sprayed on many specialty and orchard crops. The chemical is often associated with harming bumblebees or honeybees.  

Neonicotinoid or Neonics for short sticks to insects, like aphids, and kills them. The insecticide is water-soluble, meaning it moves with the water rather than sticking to the soil. According to a study from the USGS, Neonics can be highly detected in Iowa streams.  

The USGS also conducted a study where they tested Iowa City’s and the University of Iowa’s drinking water to see if Neonics would be removed by conventional drinking water treatments. The results showed that conventional drinking water treatments do not remove the insecticide. However, Iowa City’s water treatment plant does a much better job of removing the chemicals as the plant uses GAC or granular activated carbon. GAC is found in common water filters, such as a Birta.  

Greg LaFevre, an assistant professor in environmental engineering and in the department of civil and environmental engineering at IHR at the University of Iowa, said, “One of the things that we want to do as the next step is understand if there’s ways that we could engineer different types of activated carbon that could help remove these even better.” 

To learn more about Neonicotinoids insecticides in drinking water sources, click here.

Airports are looking to convert cooking oil into jet fuel


Airport
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | May 17, 2022

Major airports are converting cooking oil into jet fuel. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is using the grease from the DFW McDonalds to create fuel, helping to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and increase sustainable efforts. 

According to Pratik Chandhoke, the technical services manager for sustainable aviation fuel at Neste US Inc., the chemical makeup of fuel and cooking oil is similar. He said, “If you look at any oil, they all have these building molecules, hydrocarbons. We can take those atoms, and we then do some processing magic in our refineries, and we actually mimic the chemistry of a jet fuel.” 

Around 32,000 pounds of cooking oil is recycled from restaurants at DFW airport and converted to sustainable aviation fuel or SAF. One gallon of cooking oil is about three-quarters of a gallon of SAF.  

Other major airports are committed to becoming more sustainable by eliminating jet fuel. As SAF becomes more common the price will even out and become more comparable to the current price of fossil jet fuel. Right now, the cost of creating SAF can be up to six times higher than normal fuel.  

Officials save Lake Powell as Drought threatens production of hydroelectric power


West USA - Lake Powell
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | May 10, 2022

The artificial reservoir, Lake Powell, seeks help from U.S. officials to boost water levels. A prolonged drought has dried up water levels, threatening hydroelectric power production for the Western states. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing 500,000 acre-feet of water. The water is coming from Flaming Gorge Reservoir. An acre-foot equals 3260,000 gallons of water and is enough to supply two houses with water for a year. 

This is the first time unprecedented measures have been taken to boost water levels. Tanya Trujillo, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, said, “We have never taken this step before in the Colorado River Basin, but the conditions we see today and the potential risk we see on the horizon demand that we take prompt action.” 

As the second-largest reservoir in the U.S., Lake Powell was damned in the 1960s. If the lake were to dry up 23 more feet, the megawatt plant wouldn’t be able to supply millions of people in the western U.S. states with electricity.

In the past two decades, this has been the driest period ever recorded. The drought is believed to be caused by climate change. 

India is experiencing a heatwave that is impacting the wheat harvest


Wheat field
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Elyse Gabor | May 3, 2022

India is experiencing a record-breaking heatwave. Dangerous temperatures have affected millions of people. Some regions are predicted to reach 120 Fahrenheit, which will have detrimental effects on the country’s wheat harvest.

India and the United States make up nearly a third of wheat exports. India was expected to produce around 122 million tons, a record amount. However, the country has just experienced its hottest March to date. The heatwave hit the central wheat-growing regions and is expected to last long into harvest season. 

The hot spell has affected India’s farmers, with many of them experiencing a depletion in their wheat crop. A farmer from the Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district, Devendra Singh Chauhan, said in a text message to NBC News, “If such unreasonable weather patterns continue year after year, farmers will suffer badly.”

Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to Climate Action Network, said, “[Wheat] prices will be driven up, and if you look at what is happening in Ukraine, with many countries relying on wheat from India to compensate, the impact will be felt well beyond India.” 

Mason City truck-washing operation fined for back-to-back violations


Oil Slick
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | April 19, 2022

A state environmental officer caught a truck washing operation illegally disposing of diluted corn oil. This incident occurred in Mason City, Iowa, after the officer was sent there by the DNR due to looking investigating the illegal dumping of an agricultural chemical the day before. 

When the officer arrived at Brookstone Specialty Services, he saw that on top of the pollution from the agricultural chemical, the business was also disposing of dilute corn oil illegally. The company was fined $10,000 for both incidents. The company is believed to have saved $11,000 by illegally dumping the pollution instead of proper disposal. 

According to the DNR, the first incident occurred in late 2020 after there had been reports of dead fish and the smell of petroleum coming from a nearby creek. An investigation revealed that Brookstone Specialty Services accidentally allowed brown sludge caused by distilling grain from the trucks and trailers to drain into Chelsea Creek. The drainage was originally believed to have gone to the city’s sewer system. Upon further inspection, it was determined that the creek also contained livestock bedding that had been washed into it. The company hired people to come and scoop the bedding from the creek to dispose of it properly. 

The second incident happened in June of 2021. Jacob Donaghy, an environmental specialist for the DNR said, ​​“We had a complaint that they were dumping this green stuff outback.” He continued on saying, “We went there and sure enough, there was green stuff out back. It was just being dumped on the soil.”

The neon green liquid was a chemical that is normally used to prevent nitrogen from leaking off of farm fields. When the container was being cleaned out, someone rinsed the residue left by the chemical and dumped out the remaining water. When Donaghy arrived to investigate the first incident, he found the neon green liquid.

Farmer in northeastern Iowa fined for creek pollution


Iowa
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | April 19, 2022

A farmer near Ossian, a town in northeastern Iowa, is fined $18,000. According to the DNR, the farmer knew that one of his soil conditioner pits was possibly leaking but continued to fill it with the conditioner regardless. The conditioner leaked into the Dry Branch Creek, which flows into the Turkey River.

A report of dead fish in Dry Branch Creek was reported last July. Upon examination of the creek, the DNR found almost 20,000 dead fish. The foamy water had an unpleasant scent, high ammonia levels, and contained larvae. These abnormalities were traced to Milan Hageman.

Milan Hageman’s small livestock operation contained two storage pits that were leaking into the underground tiling. These pits had soil conditioner that was used as fertilizer.
At the time, Hageman created ridges from gravel and earth to stop the flow and pumped the conditioner out of the storage containers. According to the DNR administrative order, Hageman “thought the creek looked cloudy and wondered if the below building pit was leaking last fall.”

Specialists at the DNR are unsure how long the leak has been occurring. The amount of conditioner that reached the creek is unknown as well.

Hageman has agreed to pay a fine of $18,280 for the investigation and fish kill. He also agreed to hire an engineer to examine the storage pits.

Iowa farmers will soon be fined for drifting weedkiller


Pesticides
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Elyse Gabor | April 12, 2022

Senate File 482 was passed over a year ago, allowing farmers to be fined if pesticides on their crops drifted into neighbors’ fields. Farmers and pesticide suppliers were fined up to $500 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Before the Senate File was signed, only the pesticides service companies could be fined.

According to experts, the weedkiller dicamba was responsible for damaging more crops and trees in 2020 since it was created in the 1960s. Dicamba is notorious for being a drifting pesticide. It is used in many well-known pesticide brands that combat broadleaf weeds.

Since the bill was signed, measures need to be taken so the state can adopt a new concept on how to enforce the law. However, the law will not go into effect until after the current growing season.

A spokesperson for the Iowa Agriculture Department, Chloe Carson, said, “We are currently in the process of updating our state pesticide plan, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and plan to include rules/procedures for the private applicator penalty in this rules package once we have received feedback from EPA.”

Once the bill is in effect, it will construct a peer panel of five members to help manage and control the fines.

Company in Le Mars fined $17,000 for fish kills


Dead fish
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Elyse Gabor | April 5, 2022

According to the DNR, Nor-Am Cold Storage has been fined $17,000 for causing two fish kills.
Based out of Le Mars, the company has polluted a creek nearby with ammonia-laden water. This has occurred twice in the past four years.

The leaks occurred when the refrigeration units on the company’s rooftop were serviced. While performing the tasks, anhydrous ammonia was used as a refrigerant. The ammonia-laden water leaked from a bucket and made its way to a city storm sewer.

The first contamination was discovered in May 2018 when citizens nearby could small ammonia. The DNR reported that over 20 pounds of ammonia ran into the creek and sewer. The next day, about 50 dead, small fish were reported. Nor-Am spent hours pumping the water out of the creek to prevent the contamination from reaching the Floyd River. The company then agreed to pay a $7,000 fine.

Another fish kill in Le Mars was reported in September 2021. DNR environmental specialist Jacob Simonsen said there were around 20 dead fish near the creek. Soon after, Nor-Am reported that another ammonia leak had occurred just three days before. This time, around four pounds of ammonia had been leaked. The company must report any possible leaks to the DNR but failed to do so due to a reason unknown. However, the company agreed to pay a fine of $10,000 for the leak and is believed to write a plan to the DNR in hopes of stopping future pollution.

Climate change has harmed Iowa’s tree population


tree
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Elyse Gabor | March 29, 2022

Intense temperature changes, lack of rain, and more frequently occurring storms have harmed Iowa’s tree population. Climate change has caused the loss of hundreds of trees around the state. One of the leading causes of tree loss was the derecho in 2020. 

Mark Rouw, who resides in Des Moines, has measured Iowa’s largest trees for more than 40 years. His findings are shared on the Big Trees of Iowa official registry for the DNR. In his 2021 update, he noticed that many trees that had been previously on the list no longer existed due to the derecho. Some of the lost trees include a 92-foot-tall ponderosa pine in Cedar Rapids and a 70-foot tall butternut in Lisbon. 

“I had so many big trees I’ve been monitoring so many years it’s almost like losing a friend,” Rouw said. “Especially some of those that were so big and impressive and unique that after they came down, you’re looking at the contenders and there’s nothing else that comes close.”

Last week, Rouw measured Atlantic white cedars at the Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, where he saw University of Iowa arborist Andy Dhal. The two frequently measure Eastern Iowa trees. The state champion tree is a black walnut located on the University of Iowa’s Pentacrest. 

While at Brucemore, they found a new winner, an Atlantic white cedar that now holds the title of state champion. 

Unknown amount of manure leaked from Iowa dairy farm into


Cows in barn
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | March 22, 2022

According to the Iowa DNR, workers at Black Soil Dairy, located near Granville, observed manure water flowing from a barn and into a sewer drain. Unaware that the contamination would flow into a nearby creek, they did nothing to stop the leak. The dairy owner noticed the overflow and stopped it a few days after it had begun. The amount of escaped manure is unknown. 

The farm, which houses 4,500 dairy cows, has a flush flume system that helps clear manure from its three barns. The system utilizes fast flowing liquid to transfer waste across the width of a barn. A clog in the system caused the overflow due to sand. 

The DNR investigated the overflow and noticed that manure traveled five miles down from the dairy farm. This creek is home to little fish like minnows and chubs, which were harmed due to the pollution. Jennifer Christian, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR, said that the leak was significant enough to cause a fish kill. The overflow’s overall impact on the environment is unknown as ice was covering some of the creek.