Group hopes to use RAGBRAI to restore Iowa’s Monarch populations

Nick Fetty | July 23, 2015

The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) kicked off this week and one CGRER member is hoping to use the event as a opportunity restore Monarch butterfly populations in the Hawkeye State.

CGRER founding member David Osterberg and University of Iowa College of Public Health research support specialist Nancy Wyland organized an event last week inviting people to help make milkweed  “seed bombs.” These bombs consist of soil, compost, and milkweed seeds rolled into a ball – roughly the size of a golf ball – which will be distributed to RAGBRAI riders as they make their way through Mount Vernon Friday afternoon.

Riders are encouraged to toss these seed bombs in ditches along roads in Linn and Johnson County to bring back milkweed plants with the hope of restoring Iowa’s Monarch butterfly population. Estimates show a 90 percent decline in Monarch populations over the past 20 years.

Osterberg and his group helped create roughly 600 seed bombs as part of a larger effort spearheaded by Monarchs in Eastern Iowa, a group that aims to store Monarch populations in Eastern Iowa. Last year the group raised and released approximately 1400 butterflies.

Among the riders participating in this effort is Kelly “Milkweed” Guilbeau. The Grinnell resident, who sports a butterfly costume during the ride, first began tossing out seed bombs last year. Guilbeau also manages a blog which focuses on Monarch butterflies.

This year marks the 43rd anniversary of RAGBRAI with approximately 20,000 participants on this year’s ride.

On the Radio: Floods take toll on Iowans’ health

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In its recent report to the Governor, members of the Iowa Climate Change Impacts Committee detailed just how much floods can threaten public health.

Listen to the details in this week’s radio segment: Iowa floods – Damaging public healthContinue reading

Toxic waste may have flowed into Monticello Creek for years

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Toxic waste from a dilapidated circuit boards manufacturing plant in Monticello flowed into Kitty Creek for up to a decade before anyone alerted the EPA, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports today.

The plant, shuttered since 1991, stood just 400 feet from the creek and housed corroding drums of materials with toxicity levels ranging from harmful to potentially deadly: raw copper sulfate, copper with ferric sulfate, sulfuric acid with alcohol, nitric acid, sodium hydroxide, lead tin, cyanide and formaldehyde.

Officials determined that three feet of floodwater inside the building had moved the drums in 2009, but the flow of waste could have begun as early as 1993 or 2002 – the two previous times Kitty Creek flooded.

It’s not rare for floods to mobilize pollutants and toxic waste, according to a draft report from the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Group.

A section of the report, written by UI researchers David Osterberg and Peter S. Thorne and titled Climate Change Consequences for Public Health in Iowa, provides the details:

Floods mobilize chemical pollutants from contaminated soils, hazardous waste sites, storage basins, and other such reservoirs and introduce them into the moving waters. Pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers, gasoline, and industrial chemicals. Floodwaters on the Ohio River in Kentucky resurrected leaking 55-gallon drums of toxic waste that had been buried at a dumpsite for a generation. Some of these drums contained toxic chemicals that had been banned since the 1970s. Microbial pathogens from livestock production facilities and sewage treatment plants are also mobilized by floods. During Iowa’s 2008 flood, the Cedar Rapids wastewater treatment plant was discharging raw sewage into the floodwaters. When the floodwaters receded and residents returned to “muck out and gut”their homes, they were faced with everything the floodwaters had carried in, both chemical and microbial pollutants and mold that had begun to consume their homes.