New Ethanol Law Passed in Iowa on Tuesday


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | May 19, 2022

A new state law in Iowa would require most fuel stations to sell a gasoline blend with 15% ethanol. This will rapidly expand the fuel’s availability, but the law’s long-term effects might be more potent, according to the executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 2128, which will boost the use of corn-based ethanol to fuel the state’s vehicles, into law on Tuesday. Her action capped a protracted and hard-fought legislative initiative that began last year.

The new law is also expected to boost the sales of diesel blends that contain 20% biodiesel, which is often made with soybean oil.

Monte Shaw, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s executive director, predicts that E15 will be available at 1,000 more stations by 2026, when the ethanol requirement goes into effect. That would more than quadruple the current total, according to state data.

First, the law also requires new fuel station infrastructure — the tanks, fuel lines and pumps — to be compatible with higher blends of ethanol, which can degrade certain plastics and rubbers. That will help facilitate future increases in blend requirements, perhaps with gasoline blends of 30% or 40% ethanol, Shaw said.There are current federal rules that prohibit the summer sales of certain E15 blends because federal regulators have considered them more likely to evaporate in warmer temperatures and pollute the air. The Biden administration lifted that restriction for this summer to help reduce fuel prices.

West Des Moines Successfully Treats Water for Forever Chemicals


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | May 5, 2022

The treated drinking water of West Des Moines no longer has detectable amounts of PFAS, commonly called “forever chemicals.” West Des Moines Water Works shut down a contaminated well in 2021 after finding troubling levels of PFAS. 

Initial tests of West Des Moines water in November showed it contained the two prominent PFAS in a combined concentration of 5.3 parts per trillion. A subsequent test in March did not detect either. Those tests can detect concentrations as small as 1.9 parts per trillion.

“We were pleased to see that,” said Christina Murphy, general manager of West Des Moines Water Works. “We do everything we can to mitigate the presence of those compounds.”

Two other West Des Moines wells showed contamination in lesser concentrations than the one that was shut down, and the water utility is minimizing its use of them, Murphy said. 

Ames stopped using its most-contaminated well after DNR sampling found a combined concentration of 38 parts per trillion, but its treated drinking water appeared unaffected by the change. Initial tests of the treated water showed it had the two PFAS in a combined concentration of 9.6 parts per trillion in December. In March, it was 10 parts per trillion.

The state is requiring water supplies to test their finished drinking water quarterly if they have detectable amounts of PFAS.

Ethanol Bill Passes in the Iowa House and Senate


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | April 28, 2022

Legislation that would require most Iowa gas stations to sell higher ethanol blends passed both the Iowa House and Senate on Tuesday. 

The bill, House File 2128, received bipartisan support in both chambers, passing 42-3 in the Senate and 78-13 in the House. It is expected that Gov. Kim Reynolds will sign it into law. Reynolds told reporters Tuesday morning that the bill would “sustain and grow” the ethanol industry while helping consumers. 

The bill requires most Iowa gas stations to begin offering 15% ethanol blended fuel (E15) in 2026. The final version of the proposal includes a waiver for Iowa’s smallest gas stations, and state grants to help upgrade infrastructure to support E15. As fueling stations expand and install new tanks, those have to be E15-compatible.

Some Senate Democrats raised concerns about the legislation, arguing it would be a “mandate” and may clash with federal law. 

President Joe Biden visited Iowa earlier this month to announce the temporary summertime sale of E15. Under federal law, E15 may not normally be sold from June to September due to pollution concerns. Reynolds said Iowa was pushing to change the federal law, especially as more gas stations will sell the higher blend.

Wastewater Leaks into Creek in Creston


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | April 14, 2022

The bank of a creek in Creston, IA collapsed and severed a sewer line on Tuesday, which spilled untreated wastewater into the creek for about four hours until city workers were able to repair it, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

According to State Records, Hurley Creek goes through much of the north and west sides of town, and there have been restoration efforts to stabilize the banks. A shift of the soil likely caused the cast-iron pipe to come apart, said Dan Olson, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR. 

The wastewater leak in the creek happened Tuesday about a mile upstream of the McKinley Lake, which was created about 150 years ago by damming the creek, the DNR reported. The lake is a public attraction for a zoo with bears, elk, wolves and exotic birds, among other creatures.

Originally, the pipe was constructed under the creek bed, but it had been exposed by erosion over the years, he said. About five gallons of sewage was flowing into the creek each minute.

An estimated 1,275 gallons of sewage leaked into the creek, which Olson doubted would have much of an impact on the McKinley Lake. 

The 2022 Bird Flu May Be Less Impactful than 2015, According to Vilsack


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | April 7, 2022

The effects of the deadly and highly contagious bird flu outbreaks in the United States are expected to be less than those of 2015, when more than 50 million birds were culled, according to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

“In terms of the nature of the outbreaks, the size of the operations that have been impacted, the number of states that are dealing with backyard operations as opposed to commercial-sized operations, would strongly suggest that when this is all said and done it’s going to be significantly less than what we experienced in 2014-15,” Vilsack said on Tuesday in a call with reporters. 

Vilsack said stricter security measures at poultry facilities and heightened containment efforts after virus detections have reduced the potential for infections and the risk of transporting the virus from one facility to another

Chloe Carson, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, is not as confident because it is still early in the migration season. Carson said no site-to-site infections have been detected in Iowa.  

Iowa Senate Votes to Allow Retailers to Stop Accepting Bottle and Can Returns


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | March 31, 2022

Under a bill that was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Senate retailers would be allowed to opt out of accepting bottle and can returns starting in 2023. Redemption centers would get a raise, and beverage wholesalers would continue to keep unredeemed deposits. 

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, floor manager of Senate File 2378, said it was “an attempt to save the bottle bill.” Democrats who opposed the legislation said it would do the opposite.

The bill increases the handling fee for redemption centers from 1 cent to 3 cents per container. Retailers that continue to accept containers will continue to receive a penny per container.

One of the main points of disagreement between the two sides is whether the increased handling fee will be enough to encourage new or expanded redemption centers to open. If retailers opt out of the program, more redemption centers will be needed so consumers can return their containers and collect their 5-cent deposit.

The bill passed with a vote of 31-18. Now it will move to the House, which is considering a separate bill that allows some retailers – grocers and some others – to opt out of accepting container returns.

A Wastewater Pipe Break Leaked Wastewater into the Des Moines River


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | March 24, 2022

A wastewater pipe break near Birdland Park in Des Moines caused about 2 million gallons of untreated wastewater to leak into the Des Moines River on Tuesday, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This leak did not affect drinking water. 

The station has an overflow pipe that discharges directly into the river. An estimated 3,500 gallons of diluted wastewater flowed through it each minute. Tom Atkinson, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR, said this likely happened due to cold temperatures, although leaks are most common when there’s heavy rain.

The leak created a murky plume in the river, but the environmental effects were muted because the river is so large. DNR does not believe that any fish were killed due to the leak. 

Des Moines, along with other cities in Iowa, combine sewer systems, meaning they transport wastewater and stormwater runoff in the same pipes. Such systems are prone to leaking untreated wastewater into waterways. 

A project to separate the systems is expected to finish this year, according to the city’s website.

New Research Found Climate Change Will Increase Hospitalizations


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | March 10, 2022

Climate change is expected to increase the number of people requiring hospitalization due to critically low sodium levels in the blood, a condition known as hyponatremia. A new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden predicts that a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius would increase the burden on hospitals from hyponatremia by almost 14 percent. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Climate change is expected to trigger a rise in average global temperatures in the coming decades, resulting in a myriad of heat-related consequences for human health. One of those is hyponatremia, which can occur from a variety of diseases such as heart, renal and liver failure as well as from excessive sweating or fluid intake that dilute the sodium concentration in the blood.

Our bodies need sodium to maintain normal blood pressure, support the function of nerves and muscles and regulate the fluid balance in and around our cells. If blood sodium levels drop, it can lead to nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps, seizures and even coma.

It is well known among doctors and scientists that hyponatremia cases increase in the summer months. Still, data on temperature thresholds above which risks amplify have been lacking, complicating clinical planning and predictions of health burden in future climate scenarios.

The UN Warns of Increased Wildfires this Century


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | February 24, 2022

A new landmark United Nations report has reported that the risk of wildfires around the world will likely surge by over 50% in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.” 

The scientific assessment was made as a result of deadly wildfires around the world, like in Australia and even the Arctic. It is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. 

The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57% by the end of the century, primarily due to climate change. Some regions are expected to experience much more severe fires than others. It is a stark warning about the increased heat and dryness that human-caused global warming is bringing about. 

In a moderate scenario for global warming, the likelihood of extreme, catastrophic fires could increase by up to 33% by 2050 and up to 52 percent by 2100, the report estimates. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57% by the end of the century.