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.

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


Dead fish
Via Flickr

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.

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. 

Survey discovers that Kammerer Mobile Home Park’s drinking water contains the state’s highest amount of toxic chemicals


A glass of water, please
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | March 8, 2022

Just south of Muscatine, the Kammerer Mobile Home Park near the Mississippi River contains the highest amount of toxic chemicals that have been discovered by the new state survey. The mobile home park houses around 100 people. 

According to the Iowa DNR, the water is contaminated with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, also known as “forever chemicals” or PFAS. Out of the dozens of communities tested for the chemicals, ten have reported findings or PFAS. Kammerer Mobile Home Park has been found to contain the highest amount of chemicals and surpasses other states’ safety levels. At this time, it is unknown if mobile park residents are aware of the presence of “forever chemicals” in their water.  

Roger Bruner, the supervisor of the DNR’s water quality bureau that is conducting the statewide survey, said, “They didn’t exceed anything with the (federal) health advisory — that’s the point at which we would require a public water supply to notify their customers.”

The well that contains drinking water for the park is very susceptible to surface contamination due to porous sediment in the area. The prime source of contamination likely came from one of the many industrial sites nearby; however, the exact origin is unknown. 

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.

Environmentally friendly facility leaked manure into northwest Iowa creek


Manure digester at Lochmead Farms
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | February 15, 2022

According to the DNR, a facility near Rock Valley polluted a creek after it leaked around 376,000 gallons of contaminated water. The facility was constructed by Colorado company, Gevo, which creates environmentally friendly fuels from manure. 

The polluted water moved to a crop field and drained into Lizard Creek. The creek flows into Rock River, and as of now, the extent of contamination is unknown. 

Gevo creates renewable fuel by extracting methane from manure produced by cattle. The gas is then transported to California, where it fuels low-emissions cars. The company plans to operate this year. 

The Rock Valley digester, one of three manure holding sites in the area, was contaminated early last week. As the leak began to seep into the ground, someone discovered the polluted water and traced it back to the new facility. According to Gevor spokesperson Heather Manuel, facility workers are trying hard to find the source of the leak. The company will also be checking all digesters moving forward. 

The DNR is unsure of what caused the leak to happen. They are also unclear as to how long the digester has been leaking.

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.

Parts of the U.S. are seeing a rise in hazardous air quality


Wildfire
Via Flickr.

Elyse Gabor | January 24, 2021

Climate change is causing the rise of two air pollutants in the Western U.S. Air quality in the environment had improved due to the Clean Air Act of 1970, but within the last 20 years, we have seen the air become polluted again due to hot weather.

People in the Western U.S. face health risks due to the hot weather. The heat is causing the number of wildfires to grow and increasing dangerous amounts of ground-level ozone and pollution called PM 2.5. This pollution enters your lungs, causing severe and potentially fatal health issues such as lung and respiratory problems.

These wildfires can also cause harm to people who live thousands of miles away from the affected areas. The smoke produced by the fires can travel quickly to other states and regions, making the air quality unsafe.

Climate scientist at UCLA Daniel Swain said even if regulations and extreme measures are taken, air quality conditions are still likely to worsen in the upcoming years. However, cities and towns can take steps to reduce the number of emissions during times of dangerous air quality.

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.