Majority of Iowa waterways exceed drinkable nitrate limit after week of heavy rain


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Data from the Iowa Water Quality Information System
KC McGinnis | May 3, 2016

Data from the Iowa Water Quality Information System (IWQIS) shows that more than half of Iowa’s waterways being recorded currently exceed the nitrate threshold of 10 mg/l, with several outpacing levels from previous years.

Weeks of warm spring temperatures followed by a week of consistent rain throughout the state last week may have contributed to a spike in nitrate in Iowa’s waterways as it was washed out of fields where it had previously been applied in fertilizers, either as part of the planting process or in the form of anhydrous ammonia in the fall. Nitrate is a pollutant that must be removed at water treatment plants before the water can be suitable for drinking, sometimes at great cost to the plants. Excess nitrate can also cause the spread of toxic algae in lakes and ponds and contributes to a lack of oxygen in the Gulf of Mexico, causing what’s known as a Dead Zone.

Nitrate levels are well ahead of where they were in previous years by this time. Annual data available through IWQIS shows that the Daily Accumulated Yield (the amount of nitrate per watershed acre) in the North Raccoon River is at a level not reached until late May of 2015 and not until late September of 2014. Similar progress can be seen at the South Fork Iowa River in north central Iowa, where nitrate levels are currently the highest in the state at about double the drinkable limit.

The Iowa Water Quality Information System, developed by the University of Iowa IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, has a wealth of data available to the public on Iowa’s water quality. A tutorial on how to use the program can be viewed below.

9 thoughts on “Majority of Iowa waterways exceed drinkable nitrate limit after week of heavy rain

  1. Now what can we, as people, do to stop this from continuing to happening? Message me on Facebook as my email is overran with junk.

  2. By Iowa not enforcing Iowa’s 16 Drainage Laws or the Clean Water Act’s Antidegradation Laws the State of Iowa is killing Iowan’s as the Anhydrous Ammonia and CAFO Nitrogen fertilizers are building up in our Source Waters. The levels of the 5 Spectrum tests for the different Nitrogen fertilizers, show how Anhydrous Ammonia fertilizer or Ammonia Nitrogen as N levels are increasing in our groundwater and cause Arsenic and Lead to be drawn into our drinking water. These proven carcinogens as well as the Trihalomethane gas that (can come out of your morning shower water, after the IDNR tells you to Chlorinate or shock your well for the CAFO bacteria, while unbeknownst to you, your well’s water contains high levels of Ammonia Nitrogen as N) burns your skin, eyes, throat, intestines, and Iowan’s health is affected. Multiple, concurrent, tumors, in multiple family members because of some Iowan’s being allowed to break Iowa’s Drainage Laws and the Clean Water Act as well as one of the leading states causing the Dead Zones in the Gulf.

    • We need access to the list of contaminants when the IDNR condemns our wells (the first time in 2004) and then when these new wells are again condemned after 2008 floods were directed by illegal drainage alterations down sinkholes in a Designated National Wetland in a Mitchell County, Iowa Aquifer Recharge Area. When the IDNR hides the list of contaminants our health is affected severely, as well as others using the new/deeper aquifer we drilled to in 2004. And then public (towns and cities) as well as private well owners like me needed to be warned to test our water for the Arsenic, Lead, and Ammonia Nitrogen as N before we Chlorinate for Bacteria. IDNR agents still only advise private well owners to test for Nitrates and Bacteria. Why is the IDNR saying it’s too POLITICAL for the IDNR to warn Iowans to test for Ammonia Nitrogen as N or to say we are drinking Ammonia Nitrogen as N (or Anhydrous Ammonia Nitrogen fertilizer)?

      • Perhaps it is because I have not seen the Koch Brothers Big Anhydrous Ammonia Fertilizer Applicator equipment on our lawns in Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale or the other water clients of Bill Stowe’s WaterWorks Department. As a small farmer that has never applied the highly water soluble CAFO or Anhydrous Ammonia Nitrogen fertilizers on my farms. I have however been forced to drink them because the IDNR hides the huge Databases of well test data to protect the polluters of at least this one known Plume from Mitchell County down through Floyd, Butler, Bremer, and Black Hawk Counties.
        Veronica Lack

    • We need access to the list of contaminants when the IDNR condemns our wells (the first time in 2004) and then when these new wells are again condemned after 2008 floods were directed by illegal drainage alterations down sinkholes in a Designated National Wetland in a Mitchell County, Iowa Aquifer Recharge Area. When the IDNR hides the list of contaminants our health is affected severely, as well as others Downstream using the new/deeper aquifer we drilled to in 2004. And then public (towns and cities) as well as private well owners like me needed to be warned to test our water for the Arsenic, Lead, and Ammonia Nitrogen as N before we Chlorinate for Bacteria. IDNR agents still only advise private well owners to test for Nitrates and Bacteria. Why is the IDNR saying it’s too POLITICAL for the IDNR to warn Iowans to test for Ammonia Nitrogen as N or to say we are drinking Ammonia Nitrogen as N (or Anhydrous Ammonia Nitrogen fertilizer)?

    • We needed access to the list of contaminants when the IDNR condemned our wells (the first time in 2004) and then when these new wells are again condemned after 2008 floods were directed by illegal drainage alterations down sinkholes around us in a Designated National Wetland in a Mitchell County, Iowa Aquifer Recharge Area. When the IDNR hides the list of contaminants our health is affected severely, as well as others Downstream using the new/deeper aquifer we drilled to in 2004. And then public (towns and cities) as well as private well owners like me needed to be warned to test our water for the Arsenic, Lead, and Ammonia Nitrogen as N before we Chlorinate for Bacteria. IDNR agents still only advise private well owners to test for Nitrates and Bacteria while the 5 Nitrogen fertilizer Spectrum tests climb.

      Go to http://www.IowaColdCases.org to Read the 39 page file called Adam’s Voice on Adam M. Lack’s Cold Case file titled a Dead Zone Death. Also his father’s (Gary Lack’s) Iowa Cold Case file has some information about the illegal flood channel drainage of possibly 5000 or so acres through my prior Mitchell County farm. The IDNR had charged me with Blockage of Water in 2004 to allow those farmers that had no legal drainage for surface or tile outlets to dig first through Dean Kleckner the former Head of the Farm Bureau’s land and then transition a Flood Channel a mile long 320 foot wide and 6 1/2 foot deep through our farm in 2005 after Gary was murdered in 1/2004. It now delivers more farm chemical run-off to the huge sinkholes in this Designated National Wetland Aquifer Recharge Area in Cedar (W) Township, Mitchell County, IA and took out one of the city of Waterloo’s wells in October of 2015.

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