Flood Warning

Water Works Considers Suing State Due to Nitrate Levels

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DES MOINES, Iowa - A Des Moines Water Works official says nitrate levels in drinking water are too high for this time of year.

The nitrate levels in both the Des Moines and Raccoon River are double what they should be according to Bill Stowe, CEO of Des Moines Water Works. He says the utility company is considering suing the state.

“We are very carefully weighing our legal options because we think the state policy makers have set aside their responsibility to protect us from the pollutants we`re seeing.”

Stowe says the water is safe to drink but in order to keep nitrate levels under control the city is approaching a process that would cost $7,000 a day to get rid of the chemicals in the water.

Stowe says levels this high usually correlate with agricultural run-off during the spring. However, since this has never happened to this magnitude, planning for what can be done next if difficult.

“The systems that use nitrogen should have exhausted far greater levels then what we are seeing now but unfortunately that’s what creates the expense and the risk and the concern that we have in going forward on how we are supposed to deal with heavily polluted waters,” Stowe said.

Stowe says crews continue to monitor the levels on a regular basis and if the water were to become unsafe to drink, Water Works is required to notify the public.



  • John Smith

    OK, that is certainly not a good thing at all. I am glad that the Water Works is keeping an eye out for its customers.

  • Rebecca Hergert

    This must be the Racoon/Des Moines River.
    I got aweful sick 2 weeks ago. Drink water at a hotel in Ames. I was double over!!
    Some how I came out of it!!
    My husband thought the tea at Perkins in Ames tasted funny a week ago!!

  • Rebecca Hergert

    Farmer’s must be running off manure/chemicals in our river’s.
    Cause I was really sick 2 weeks ago. I was double-over.
    It felt like a ulcer/gall bladder attack!! I was in pain!!
    And my husband notice the tea at Perkin’s tasted funny!! And that was a week ago!!

  • Harold Peedmont

    Does anyone think the Water Works having to repay the unlawful tax they collected has anything to do with the notion of filing suit?

  • Kaff

    YES! Let’s finally demand that our waters be cleaned up! We should be able to swim & fish in non contaminated water!
    Our kids deserve clean air & water-it’s a necessity folks!

  • Jean

    Thanks Bill Stowe! Great to see someone is looking out for us. The worst offenders farmers continue to be allowed to pollute. Our legislators are afraid of these bully farmers. We the people are too.

  • ervserver

    I think lawsuits, many lawsuits against the state is exactly what we need. Branstad and his cronies in big ag need to be held accountable.

  • Jack

    Ask Bill what they do with the nitrates they remove? They dump them back into the river so someone else downstream has to deal with them. Make sense? Not really, With larger than normal rainfall this fall it makes sense that we are seeing levels that are as high as spring. Not all nitrates are from fertilizer, many are from the natural decay or organic matter. A big part of the answer is to slow flow of water from underground tile. But everyone needs to work together, not get on their high horse.

  • Lacy

    I wish this was more front news. I had to do a search to find more information about it after a friend had told me about these dangerous levels. This affects everyone (including the our children and grandchildren) in the metro, so I would think that our advocates would be the media at this point in order to inform people of the problem so that we can a. take precautions as best we can and b. contact our legislature and officials to advocate for ourselves.

    • John Smith

      I tend to agree. But, I think a great part of the media in Iowa does not want even an appearance of being ‘anti-farmer’, no matter how many Iowans the issue affects. Wouldn’t be prudent, you know.

      I also reckon that the majority of farmers would be happy to take action, so long as ALL farms had to take the same action. Difficulty arises when the government does not apply and enforce regulations on ANY industry in such a way that no one member of that industry might gain a competitive advantage over others. As I understand it, the state of Iowa’s current position is to let farmers take action on a voluntary basis. So that those who take action might get a warm feeling about being good stewards, but have to sweat having higher costs than their neighbors who take none.

      Clearly, NO industry has the right to pollute drinking water supplies in order to save money. But, it will take state government action to keep that from happening. Or, if the state fails to act, the federal government.

      At the moment, our state government seems to be in the “fail to act” mode.

  • john

    Yes it’s surprising to see elevated nitrates in the Fall. I expect to see this problem become an ongoing, year-round issue : it requires a real solution, not just a temporary fix.

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