Ottumwa meat plant is Iowa’s top waterway polluter

Nick Fetty | June 24, 2014
The Des Moines River in Des Moines. Photo by Jason Mrachina; Flickr
The Des Moines River in Des Moines.
Photo by Jason Mrachina; Flickr

An Ottumwa pork processing plant is the state’s number one waterway polluter, according to a report released by the Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center.

The report finds that Cargill Meat Solutions dumped nearly three million pounds of chemicals into the Lower Des Moines River in 2012 which is the 10th most-polluted watershed in the country. Other polluted watersheds in Iowa include the Blackbird and Soldier Rivers (ranked 5th) along the Iowa-Nebraska border, the Lower Big Sioux River (ranked 34th) in northwest Iowa, and the Lower Iowa River (ranked 35th) on the east side of the state.

Corporate agribusiness facilies – such as Cargill – “were responsible for approximately one-third of all direct discharges of nitrates to our waterways, which can cause health problems in infants and contribute to ‘dead zones’ in our waters.”  The Tyson meat plant in Columbus Junction dumped more than 1.7 million pounds of toxins into the Lower Iowa River.

The report also states that nationally 206 million pounds of toxic waste was dumped into waterways in 2012. Iowa was responsible for nearly 7 million pounds of chemicals which ranked 12th nationally. Indiana was the top-polluting state with more than 17 million pounds of toxic discharge while Rhode Island was the least-polluting with 618 pounds of toxic releases.

For more information, check out the Iowa Public Radio segment about pollution in Iowa watersheds.