Environmental groups suing for Raccoon River water quality


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The Raccoon River in Des Moines (Michael Leland on flickr).

Julia Poska| April 11, 2019

Two environmental groups filed a lawsuit against Iowa late last month over degraded water in the Raccoon River, a drinking water source for 500,000 people.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch are suing the Iowa Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture and  two state environmental boards, according to the Des Moines Register. They are seeking a ban on building or expanding animal feeding operations in the Raccoon River watershed until nutrient reduction compliance for farmers becomes mandatory.

“There’s too much at stake to bet on voluntary practices,” the plaintiffs wrote in an op-ed for the Register. “We want to force elected officials to think about a food and farm system that works for farmers, workers, eaters and the environment, not just industrial interests.”

Runoff of fertilizer and manure from farms contributes to harmful algae blooms, which  leech toxins into local waters and create a lifeless Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  The environmental groups say the state has failed to uphold the “Public Trust Doctrine,”  which states that the government must protect certain natural resources for public uses, like drinking and recreation. As of now, tried-and-true nutrient reduction strategies like planting cover crops are incentivized but not mandated for farmers.

Others, like the Iowa Soybean Association CEO and the Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, told the Register the “potentially divisive” lawsuit disappointed them. For many, this case recalls the 2015 Des Moines Waterworks lawsuit against drainage districts in three north Iowa counties, which attempted to force compliance with federal clean-water standards for “point-source” polluters but was ultimately dismissed.

 

On the Radio: GPC of Muscatine facing lawsuit over environmental violations


 

Photo by Saul Tannenbaum; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers the state lawsuit against GPC of Muscatine for their environmental violations. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

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US reaches $5.15 billon environmental settlement


Photo by Leona Weaver; Flickr

The federal government has recently reached a $5.15 billion settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the largest ever for environmental contamination, to settle claims related to the cleanup of thousands of sites tainted with hazardous chemicals for decades.

The bulk of the money – $4.4 billion – will pay for environmental cleanup and be used to settle claims stemming from the legacy contamination.

To learn more, head over to KWWL.

UI hospitals add composting


Photo by max-R, Flickr.
Photo by max-R, Flickr.

Beginning on March 28, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will start putting food compost bins in their six dining rooms.

Additionally, in February the hospital announced they would eliminate Styrofoam and nonrecyclable plastic from its cafeterias.

The collected compost will be taken to the Iowa City Landfill, which has done food composting since 2007.

Read the full story here.

Another lawsuit for Grain Processing Corporation


Tee's in Muscatine, Iowa. Photo by Pete Zarria, Flickr.

Last week we highlighted an intense radio segment from Iowa Public Radio detailing the health issues caused by pollution in Muscatine. Much of this pollution comes from the Grain Processing Corporation’s (GPC) facilities.

Now, Muscatine residents are moving towards a class action lawsuit against GPC. The lawsuit claims that GPC’s pollution threatens the residents’ health. This lawsuit comes despite GPC’s assertion that they are complying with state regulations.

Read more from the Des Moines Register here.

Muscatine citizens seek voice in state’s suit against grain processor


Photo by apo lanthar, Flickr.

A group of 40 Muscatine citizens known as Clean Air Muscatine (CLAM) is seeking to have its voice included in the state’s lawsuit against an alleged corporate polluter, Grain Processing Corporation (GPC).

In a lawsuit filed last month, The Iowa Department of Natural Resources alleges that GPC is a major source of hazardous air pollutants including formaldehyde, hydochloric acid and methanol.

Clean Air Muscatine is arguing that the state cannot adequately represent their interests, and is attempting to intervene in the case. Several members submitted sworn affidavits to the court describing the effects of the pollution.

“I believe GPC considers environmental fines as an operational expense, a cost of operation,” wrote Rev. Jim Turner of United Musserville Methodist Church, located across the street from the plant. “GPC and the individuals that govern it need to be responsible and held accountable for their actions.”

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