Swimming is not Recommended at 11 State Beaches


Terry Trueblood Lake in Iowa City

Josie Taylor | July 19, 2022

Swimming is not recommended at 11 state park beaches in Iowa because of high bacterial levels, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

One beach closed completely this year as a precaution after a swimmer was infected by a ”brain eating amoeba”.

Officials at Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources collect weekly samples of the state-owned swimming beaches each summer to determine if the public is at risk of contracting waterborne diseases if they go into the water. DNR works with many health and management agencies to alert the public about unsafe water.

This is not the first year this has happened. In 2021, 24 of the 38 DNR-monitored beaches recorded swim advisories over the summer. There were a total of 88 E. coli advisories and 23 microcystin advisories across the affected beaches. 

Climate change created unpredictability in rainfall, impacts crops


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | July 18, 2022

State Climatologist Justin Glisan said storms in Iowa are hitting smaller areas with more intensity and an increase in rainfall with unpredictable patterns. Iowa’s humidity levels have 13 percent more atmospheric moisture than 35 years ago, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. As the climate warms, water vapor in the air will continue to increase, which creates an imbalance in soil moisture for crops.

Although there has been an increase in water vapor with the presence of climate change, July has been extremely dry, and trends show April and October as wetter months this year. This trend and the below-average rainfall during dry months create lessened crop production, which Iowa saw in May when spring planting conditions were not optimal. 

This year, unlike some past dry years, topsoil and subsoil are labeled “adequate” in moisture, to help crops continue to grow during dry months like July.

With the condition of the soil and projected trends, Glisan said the 2060s and 2070s are when precipitation severity catches up to climbing temperatures. So, innovations in agriculture technology and increased rainfall are aiding crops and increasing yields.

Iowa dairy farmer fined for massive leak in manure container


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | July 8, 2022

Last week, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fined farmer Terry Van Maanen $10,000, the most the DNR can charge, for ignoring signs of a leak in a manure digester. In January, the facility in northwest Iowa that captures gaseous fuel from cow manure began filling up. The DNR said it was noted there was a drop in levels by five feet, but no investigation arose from the level drop. Then, in February, the manure digester, operated by a Colorado-based company named Gevo, leaked 376,000 gallons of manure water into nearby creeks near Rock Valley, Iowa. 

At the start, Gevo operators were unsure of the leak and assumed it was the disappearance of foam at the surface of the water, but later reported the leak to the DNR on Feb. 7. The large spill leaking thousands of gallons of manure water caused E. Coli measurements in nearby streams and rivers to increase.

The DNR fined Van Maanen because he has responsibility over the Winding Meadows Dairy facility which has about 2,400 cows, even though other workers may have been operating the digester at the time of the leak. To fix issues from the leak, Gevo put epoxy, or very strong glue, in areas of the container where leaks are likely. Environmental Specialist for the DNR Jacob Simonsen said the facility is back in operation.

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 agricultural chemicals, the business was also illegally throwing away diluted corn oil. 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 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 smell 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 an unknown reason. 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.

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.

Traces of ‘Forever Chemicals’ detected in Sioux City drinking water


SiouxCityFloodM
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | January 18, 2022

“Forever chemicals” were found in Sioux City’s drinking water. The Iowa Air National Guard base is a possible source of the contamination.

The Iowa DNR tested a well in Sioux City and found the two PFAS in December. The cancer-causing chemicals perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, also referred to as PFAS, can be found in many household items. These items include non-stick cooking utensils, firefighting foams, and more.

The well is located around a mile and a half west of the base. Utility director for Sioux City Brad Puetz is confident that the firefighting foam used at the airbase is the cause of the chemicals.

A higher concentration of PFAS were found in one treatment plant than in untreated water. The city has two treatment plants, with the Southbridge Regional Water Treatment Plant holding a quarter of the city’s water. This plant blends with the other plant’s treated water. PFAS were not detected in the other plants’ water. To track the contamination rate, the city is testing the drinking water every few months.

Sioux City was one town tested in the DNR’s statewide water sampling. PFAS were found in cities like Ames and West Des Moines.

‘Forever chemicals’ found in Ames drinking water


Graphic via the Iowa DNR.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 14, 2022

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources found PFAS in Ames drinking water.

The city is Iowa’s ninth-biggest city had concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in its water, detected at 3.1 and 6.5 parts per trillion. The Iowa DNR wants Ames to test the drinking water quarterly because the concentrations were found in water already cleaned by the city’s water utility service.

The chemicals were also found in wells within city limits. One well that tested positive is the site of firefighter trainings. Firefighter foam is one of the most common materials with PFAS in it.

Iowa Capital Dispatch reported Rock Valley, an Iowa town of 4,000 people, also tested positive for PFAS. Wells in the city also tested positive. All of the PFAS levels in the two towns are below federal standards, but the Iowa DNR is planning on having the cities continue testing the water. West Des Moines water also previously tested positive for the chemicals.

The Iowa DNR has released less than half its water quality tests for the state. Supervisor of the DNR’s water quality bureau Roger Bruner previously said testing is underway for cities in Iowa. He said results will be posted as the department receives them.

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.