Noise from wind turbines poses no threat to human health


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Sunset at an Iowa wind farm (flickr). 

Julia Poska | February 1, 2019

Though many neighbors of wind farms complain that the turbines are an eyesore and that their whirring causes headaches or disturbs sleep, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that the noise from wind farms causes any harm to humans beyond annoyance.

That’s the main message in a report released yesterday by the UI Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, Iowa Policy Project and Iowa Environmental Council. They based their conclusion on a review of two previous reviews of academic literature on wind turbines and human health.

Those reviews, conducted a few years ago, found no link between health outcomes and wind turbines, though they did find evidence of annoyance. The authors of the new report believe that risk perception plays a major role in perceived “annoyance” for neighbors of wind farms. Those that have a negative view of the turbines will be more likely to report negative health outcomes, whether or not they are actually exposed to harmful noises. Those that receive monetary compensation for the potential nearby nuisance will be less likely to report annoyance or health problems.

Nearly 37 percent of energy produced in energy is generated by wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. At over 8,400 megawatts, Iowa has the second highest wind power capacity in the nation. Ten wind power facilities have saved over 8.8 million metric tons of atmospheric carbon and provided over 7,000 jobs since the state started developing wind power infrastructure almost 20 years ago.

The authors of the report believe the benefits of the industry outweigh potential annoyances to neighbors.

“Given the evidence and confounding factors, and the well-documented negative health and environmental impacts of power produced with fossil fuels, we conclude that development of electricity fromwind is a benefit to the environment,” they wrote. “We conclude that wind energy should result in a net positive benefit to human health.”

Drainage districts have power to improve water quality


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One-third Iowa cropland is a part of a tile drainage system, which are regulated by drainage districts. (USGS)
Jenna Ladd | October 12, 2017

A new report out of a non-partisan Iowa City-based research center, Iowa Policy Project, states that drainage districts have the power to improve water quality in the state.

About one-third of cropland in Iowa is tiled for drainage. Agricultural drains channel water, which often carries heavy nitrate loads, from fields into local water waterways. Iowa’s nitrate runoff is a primary contributor to the growing Dead Zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Researchers Sarah Garvin, Michael Burkart and David Osterberg recommended using Iowa’s “quasi-governmental” drainage districts an agent of change. The report explains that the districts have the statutory authority to mitigate nitrate runoff by “requiring water quality monitoring and reporting, wetland conservation and restoration, and mandating the installation of bioreactor at discharge points to reduce nitrate loads.”

The report also points out that under statutory mandate, drainage should be “a public benefit and conducive to the public health, convenience and welfare.” Nitrate levels in water at or below the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of 10 mg/L is considered safe for consumption. However, some new research suggests that nitrate levels below this can pose some health threats. In either case, the report reads,”Public health and welfare should be interpreted to mean keeping our waterways free of nitrate pollution.”

David Osterberg, lead energy and environment researcher at Iowa Policy Project, said, “It’s going to require managers of drainage districts to step up at a time when their county supervisors cannot, even if they wanted to, and at a time the state legislature has stood in the way of local authority on industrial agriculture.” He added, “In this case, with drainage districts, the authority to take some steps already exists.”

The executive summary and the full report can be found here.

$1.4 million towards water quality improvement


Skunk River east of Cambridge, IA.  Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr
Skunk River east of Cambridge, IA.
Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr

Last week, the state of Iowa made $1.4 million available to farmers in an effort to improve water quality through nutrient reduction practices. Farmers have now claimed all of these funds and will match the amount, bringing the total to $2.8 million.

The 597 farmers who received funds plan to either plant cover crops, utilize no-till or strip-till cultivation, or apply a nitrification inhibitor.

Earlier this year, the Legislature appropriated $11.2 million for environmental conservation, but the amount was vetoed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

According to a report by the Iowa Policy Project, the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy needs more funding in order to succeed.

 

Iowa’s Allamakee County looks to implement nation’s strictest frac sand mining ordinance


Nick Fetty | June 5, 2014
Photo via Erick Gustafson; Flickr
Photo via Erick Gustafson; Flickr

On Tuesday, the Allamakee County (Iowa) Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 to approve what looks to be “the most strict frac sand mining ordinance in the nation,” according to Robert Nehman, President of the Allamakee County Protectors.

The Board not only intends to protect environmental and agricultural interests with this ordinance but also aims to reduce the impact on county infrastructure – such as roads and bridges – that often see increases in heavy traffic due to frac sand mining operations. The ordinance is in response to the plethora of frac sand mining operations that have popped up all over Wisconsin since 2009.

In January, the Iowa Policy Project compiled a report about frac sand mining in northeast Iowa and the Cedar Rapids Gazette editorial board published an article about the implications of frac sand mining in northeast Iowa in February.

For more information, check out the draft of the ordinance.

EDIT: Post originally stated it was the nation’s strictest “fracking” ordinance.  The ordinance instead applies to “sand frac mining.”

A call for state-funded school gardens


Photo by matthewcrampton; Flickr.
Photo by matthewcrampton; Flickr.

A recent report by the Iowa Policy Project suggests Iowa school districts should have students plant and maintain gardens on school grounds to teach students about plant life and growing fresh food for their own cafeteria.

The author, a junior at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Policy Project intern, said most people don’t understand the environmental impacts of shipping food across the country. She added that it is empowering to grow your own food and know you’re not harming the earth.

To read the full story on RadioIowa, click here.

On the Radio: Iowa Policy Project Report


Photo by Carol Mitchell; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers a report released by the Iowa Policy Project concerning silica sand mining in Iowa. Listen to the audio below or continue reading for the transcript.

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On the Radio: Urban Wetland Projects


Photo by Sustainable Sanitation; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers the benefits of urban wetland projects. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

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