Crowd favors lawsuit to regulate runoffBy Joel Aschbrenner, Des Moines Register
7 August 2013
Bill Stowe, CEO of Des Moines Water Works, speaks to a crowd of more than 100 at gathered Tuesday to advocate for clean water. / Joel Aschbrenner/The Register
The idea of filing a lawsuit seeking federal regulators to establish limits on the farm runoff pollution in Iowa drew loud cheers Tuesday at a gathering of community and environmental advocates.
More than 100 people packed into the Des Moines headquarters of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement to hear hear Bill Stowe, CEO of Des Moines Water Works, discuss the root of elevated nitrogen levels found in rivers flowing into the city.
The pollution, largely from fertilizer and other agricultural runoff, prompted Des Moines Water Works to install the world’s largest nitrogen removal system, which could result in future rate increases, Stowe said.
Those in attendance jeered Gov. Terry Branstad for giving agriculture industry representatives a seat at the table in crafting a plan for how to enforce environmental regulations.
“Branstad is pulling the strings, but the industry is pulling his strings,” said David Goodner, an organizer with CCI.
Stowe outlined three ways to begin cleaning up Iowa’s rivers:
- Adequately fund the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to inspect livestock producers.
- Restrict or prohibit fall nitrogen application.
- Look for ways to tax the new installation of drainage tiles, which Stowe called the “serpents of doom,” for allowing accelerated runoff of nutrient-laden water from fields.
A spokesman for Branstad says the governor is working to protect waterways while not imposing burdensome regulations on farms and communities.