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.

Flock of turkeys in Buena Vista County test positive for bird flu


Turkey
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | March 15, 2022

Tests confirmed that a flock of 50,000 turkeys was infected with the bird flu early last week. According to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the highly contagious and deadly disease caused the turkeys to be slaughtered in Buena Vista County. The virus was likely to have come from wild birds migrating through the state. 

This was the second time the disease had affected birds in a week. The first outbreak was detected in Pottawattamie Country in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks. Poultry facilities near the Buena Vista site are being watched as well as 37 backyard flocks. 

The turkeys will be buried near the Buena Vista site to reduce the spread of the disease. 

Iowa State’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig warned that it is a time of caution, saying, “It is critically important that livestock producers and their veterinarians closely monitor the health of their animals.” 

The last outbreak occurred in 2015, causing the slaughter of more than 30 million birds in the state. Naig said that in order to avoid a similar scenario, it is essential to have early detections and swift responses. 

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.

Contaminated water in Iowa continues to grow


Trout Run Creek near Decorah IA 854A3231
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | February 22, 2022

According to the Iowa DNR’s 2022 draft inventory, Iowa has more contaminated water now than in 2020. The reasons for the water bodies making the DNR’s list were due to large numbers of bacteria and fish killings.

As shown in the state’s 2020 list of Category 5 impairment, the DNR reported that the state recorded 585 sources of water with a total of 778 contaminates. In 2022, the DNR’s findings have gone up to 594 sources of water with a total of 783 containments.

Over half of Iowa’s rivers and streams have impairments, or at least one reason they do not meet the standard for safe drinking water, water activities, or the support marine life. Just under 70 percent of lakes and reservoirs in the state do not meet these standards as well. There are still over 150 other water sources that contain contaminated water; however, the state has not been required to set a limit on pollution for these sites.

According to an executive team member for the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter Wally Taylor, the bacteria found in Iowa’s water was due to animal waste and large-scale animal production.

A fuel leak in Eldora could lead to contaminated groundwater


Excavating
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | February 1, 2022

Last week in Eldora, around 75,000 gallons of gas were leaked, and officials are working to discover if groundwater contamination has occurred.

Environmental specialist for the DNR Carl Beg said that over the weekend at Fast Stop, soil and concrete were taken in an effort to reach and test the groundwater. If the groundwater is contaminated by the fuel, it can travel and pollute a more significant area.

Fast stop is a gas station that sells diesel and gasoline from tanks underground. Although the store has an alert system to detect leaks, it did not detect any.

The DNR was notified of a possible leak on Friday morning by AgVantage. An employee of Members1st Credit Union smelled gasoline in the building’s basement. According to an online statement, the business is closed indefinitely.

AgVantage, Farm Supply, an agriculture cooperative, is located on the same side of town as Fast Stop. Because of this, it is in charge of recovering the contaminated soil. It is also possible that it could receive a fine from the DNR.

New DNR Online Map Shows Where Contaminated Drinking Water is in Iowa


Flying Over the Fox
Via Flikr

Elyse Gabor | January 11, 2022

Last week, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources created an online map that allows Iowans to see if their drinking water is safe. The online map shows if cancer-causing chemicals have polluted water. 

PFAS, also known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, are synthetic chemicals contaminating the state’s water. These chemicals are found in everyday household items like stain-resistant furniture and clothes, non-stick pots and pans, and more. 

The DNR had tested around 59 cities for traces of PFAS. West Des Moines had the highest concentration of PFAS. Due to the findings, one of the three wells was shut down.

The map doesn’t show PFAS that were found in drinking water. This was the case for Iowa City. The map marks the city with a green dot, indicating that no PFAS were detected. However, residents did their research and found one of the two PFAS. The chemicals were found in the Iowa City Sand Pit Pond, a source of drinking water for 10% of the city’s water supply. 

The supervisor of the DNR’s water quality bureau Roger Bruner said the DNR map shows the contamination of PFAS in finished drinking water that goes out to customers. To be transparent, test results of water sources can be found online. 

Maine to ban “forever chemicals” by 2030


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | August 4, 2021

Maine is the first state in the nation to ban around 9,000 compounds known as “forever chemicals” by 2030.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl or PFAS are often used to make products water and stain resistant. The highly effective substances are used across dozens of industries and added to a range of products such as cosmetics, cookware, food packaging and floss. However, PFAS are unable to fully break down and instead accumulate in the environment and humans. Increasingly, studies have shown the chemicals are toxic to humans, even at low exposure levels, and are linked to a range of health problems such as cancer and liver disease. 

The new law requires manufacturers who intentionally add PFAS to products sold in Maine report their use beginning in 2023. The new law additionally provides a caveat of instances where PFAS usage is “currently unavoidable” such as items in medical devices according to The Guardian

Supporters hope other states follow suit in order pressure industries to stop using PFAS and encourage the federal government to enact a similar law. The European Union is also advancing its own plan to phase out the substances in all products by 2030,however it has yet to be adopted as binding. 

California wildfires have burned 3x more land than last year’s record setting season


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | July 14, 2021

Severe drought coupled with the climate crisis has culminated in a second record setting year for land burned in California’s annual wildfire season. 

Reduced snowpack and early snowmelt alongside warmer temperatures in the spring and summer have created drier seasons according to CNN.  In 2020, around 4.1 million acres were estimated to be burned according to the National Interagency Fire Center. However, 2021 is expected to cause far more damage. On Monday, fires had burned over 142,477 acres in the state, 103,588 more than during the same time period last year. 

Scientists say the interconnectedness of heat and drought are causing a vicious feedback loop which climate change makes even more difficult to break in the region. As heat increases the drought, the drought increases the heat. 

Across the country, more than 30 million people are under heat warning. The risks for underlying health issues and other dangers for those working outside are “very high” according to the National Weather Service

Lake Darling Faces Continuing Bacteria Problems Despite $12 Million Restoration


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | July 6, 2021

Once the pinnacle of Iowa perennial lake improvement, Lake Darling now reports one of the highest amounts of swimming advisories in Iowa. 

Despite a $12 million restoration concluded in 2014, Lake Darling has had problems maintaining its renewed water quality. A study by the Iowa Environmental Council found Darling had 30 beach advisories for fecal bacteria and nine for algae toxins between 2014 and 2020. In a rare discovery for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Darling was found to have violated three state swimming standards in a single round of tests last week. Only seven other lakes received “swimming not recommended” warnings.

The restoration of Lake Darling began in the early 2000’s after Iowa DNR tests for bacteria found high levels of animal waste due to the local area’s high concentration of hog confinements. Animal bacteria and algae toxins can result in intestinal and other illnesses in humans, especially those with weakened immune systems. However, many of these concerns seemed to be put to rest due to the restoration. In 2007, the Iowa DNR even published an article titled “Lake Darling: A snapshot of success.

In an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Alicia Vasto, the associate water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, said the increase in algae toxin microcystin has been a major concern. Vasto noted the beginning of July is very early in the season for microcystin advisories, however the precipitation patterns and drought increases the difficulty to draw conclusions. 

State environmental panel approves controversial new water rule


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | May 19, 2021

The state environmental panel approved a controversial new water quality rule which could take away important protections for Iowa’s waterways. 

The governor-appointed Environmental Protection Commission approved rules on Tuesday related to water quality certifications and permits. The Iowa Environmental Council, a nonprofit coalition of 80 environmental groups, said the new rules would immediately remove multiple protections for Iowa’s waterways as well as cause other protections to regress. The new water quality rule would specifically require projects near outstanding waters receive individual certification, allow for heavy equipment in the area, and would remove wetland loss restrictions. 

The EPA requires any changes to the water quality rules be tied to specific water quality standards, including the following of other code sections pertaining to water quality and pollution standards. However, the environmental council argues the conditions set by the commission are not enough and could lead to further water quality standard violations if they remain the standard for water quality protection. Iowa Department of Natural Resources water quality monitoring staff supervisor Roger Bruner said the suggested changes by the environmental council were “outside the scope” of federal rules by not being directly related to a specific water quality standard, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch

More than 60% of Iowa’s rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs are considered impaired due to harmful levels of bacteria and algae fueled by runoff of manure and fertilizers according to the Iowa DNR