Iowa can count water contamination among flood damage


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Flooding in Red Oak Iowa March 14 (via Jo Naylor on flickr). 

Julia Poska| March 28, 2019

Last weekend, President Trump approved Iowa’s $1.6 billion disaster declaration, to help cover flood damage to homes, businesses, farms and levees. Not accounted for is the cost of degraded water, now an issue in Iowa and across the Midwest.

The Gazette reported Monday that eight manure lagoons had overflowed in western Iowa. State Department of Natural Resources officials told the paper that conditions in the east had neared similar levels.  Manure overflow can harm aquatic life and contaminate water for drinking and recreation.

Manure spread onto fields also enters waterways when those fields flood, when snow melts and when it rains. One Buena Vista county feedlot operator may face DNR enforcement after spreading manure during three rainy days in March, the Gazette reported.

Unless a special waiver is granted, farmers cannot legally apply manure on snow covered ground December 21 through March. Farmers are anxious to get manure out of storage, and weather permitting, will be able to apply in coming days.

Manure, pesticides sewage and fuel in flood water could contaminate the 1.1 million private wells in 300 flooded counties in 10 states, as approximated by the National Ground Water Association. The Des Moines Register shared Tuesday an Associated Press report on risk to well water in the rural Midwest.

The risk of water seeping into wells heightens when water sits stagnant for days or weeks, as it has done since the floods. Liesa Lehmann of the Wisconsin DNR, told the AP that well owners should assume their water is contaminated if flood water sits nearby. She said to look out for changes in color, smell or taste.

Once flooding recedes, Lehman said, owners should hire professionals to pump out, disinfect and re-test wells.

 

 

 

 

Manure spill affects nearly two miles of creek in northwest Iowa


A creek that runs through Story County, Iowa. (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)
A creek that runs through Story County, Iowa. (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | July 7, 2016

Approximately 2,500 fish were killed after a manure spill in northwest Iowa last week.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported that the spill occurred on June 30 when Doug Streit, an O’Brien County hog farmer, was transferring manure from one tank to another. A broken hose led to an estimated 5,000 gallons of manure spilling onto the ground but Streit quickly dammed the area above Barry Creek to prevent further spillage.

The spill contaminated nearly two miles of creek and mostly affected smaller fish like minnows, shiners, stonerollers and chubs. The site was cleaned up the following day using a pump and other equipment. Iowa DNR officials said they do not expect the spill to affect Waterman Creek downstream but will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate enforcement action as necessary.

Manure spills can cause a slew of public health and environmental concerns. Not only can manure spills contaminate surface waters – such as creeks, rivers, and lakes – but manure can also seep its way into the ground and penetrate aquifers. Increased nitrate levels in waterways caused by manure spills can lead to blue-baby syndrome in infants. Elevated levels of nitrate and other compounds can also lead to fish kills and other ecological impacts.

According to the Iowa DNR’s Hazardous Material Release Database, nearly 350 spills have been reported since the start of the year. Iowa DNR encourages farmers, landowners, and anyone else from the public to report manure spills or suspected spills. Information on how to report spills and other resources are available on the Iowa DNR website.

Weather conditions impede farmers’ post-harvest duties


Early snows  (Julie Falk/Flickr)
Snow and cold temperatures are impeding farmers’ ability to apply fertilizer to fields during the post-harvest season. (Julie Falk/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | November 28, 2014

Early snow and unusually cold temperatures this month will likely cause repercussions for farmers in the spring as they are currently unable to fertilize their fields.

The frozen ground – which measures between 5 and 9 inches deep – has caused difficulties for farmers looking to fertilize their fields, especially using liquid manure. This is problematic not only for the soil but also the receptacles that hold the manure which will eventually exceed capacity.

“We’re hoping for a warm spell so we can get out there and inject more manure. Otherwise, we’re going to have to surface apply some of this manure so we don’t have facilities that are running over,” said Iowa State University Extension Agronomist Joel  DeJong during an interview on Radio Iowa.

In 2010 the Iowa Code established that farmers cannot apply fertilizer to their soil between December 21 and April 1. Fertilizer applied to frozen ground has a greater chance of running off the field and polluting nearby waterways and damaging local ecosystems. Several manure spills have occurred in Iowa this month including one in Fairfield where an estimated 3,000 gallons of liquid manure “spilled into an unnamed creek.” In August, a spill occurred in northwest Iowa that killed more than 860,000 fish in Mill Creek.

The state in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently passed rules for stricter regulation of manure spills specifically and livestock farms more generally. Fines and other actions are taken against farmers and operations that violate the new rule.

On the Radio: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Protest


Photo by Josh Bancroft; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers Iowans’ concern over the DNR handling manure spills in the state. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Continue reading

Massive fish kills in South Skunk River


Photo by Towboat Garage, Flickr

Last week a manure spill caused the death of more than 30,000 fish in Hamilton County. This was the South Skunk River’s second fish kill of the week.

Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources reports:

A fish kill on the South Skunk River near the Hamilton and Story County line last week affected five miles of stream and killed an estimated 27,456 fish valued at $38,056. Continue reading

Blairstown dairy farm spills manure into Coon Creek


Photo courtesy of thegazette.com

Last Thursday an estimated 100,000 gallons of manure spilled out of a dairy farm near Blairstown into Coon Creek. This accident occurred when a contractor at Cedar Valley Farms punctured a manure transfer pipe. Although Coon Creek flows into the Iowa River, KCRG reports that it’s unlikely that the river will experience significant contamination:

Paul Sleeper, a DNR fishery biologist, said he will have to wait for the water to clear up more before he can tally up the number of fish killed. But he did visit the area where that creek tributary flows into the Iowa River near Marengo.

“We did go down there this (Friday) morning where it dumps into the Iowa River. At this time, we don’t see any impact. The Iowa River has a pretty good flow right now so we don’t anticipate any problems with that,” Sleeper said. Continue reading