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.