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Des Moines Water Works Says Million-Dollar Lawsuit is Necessary

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- An organization is saying Des Moines Water Works is spending too much money on a lawsuit over clean water.

But the utility says the spending is necessary, and the lawsuit is its only option.

The metro utility is suing Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac counties and says its spending is necessary. Water Works officials say the three counties are allowing polluted water to move from farm fields into the Raccoon River.

Water Works has spent about $1.5 million last year cleaning the polluted water. Now, it has approved spending close to that same amount on its lawsuit.

With attack ads against Des Moines Water Works, the Iowa Partnership for Clean Water is trying to convince viewers that the utility is throwing its customers money down the drain.

“You know, it’s coincidental but the group that is running television ads about this issue and has been for the last year has spent about $700,000 on those television ads, which is roughly what we’ve spent on our lawsuit to date,” said Graham Gillette, chair of the Board of Trustees of Des Moines Water Works.

Gillette says IPCW could be putting the money it’s using on ads to better use.

As for the money, Des Moines Water Works is spending on its lawsuit against three northwest Iowa counties over high nitrate levels. Gillette says there is no other option.

“We have about an $80 million problem. In order to solve this problem, to provide safe, affordable drinking water for the people we serve. So, therefore we had a choice to make and that is, what’s in the best interest of our ratepayers?” Gillette said.

Des Moines Water Works has authorized more than $1.3 million to be spent on the suit.

“We appropriated $700,000 about a year ago. Last week, we put in the budget another $650,000,” Gillette said.

He also broke down where the money is going.

“It has gone to legal fees. It’s gone to paying attorneys. A large portion of it so far has gone to paying experts, those people who are going to testify about different things. You have to pay their travel expenses and sometimes pay them. Research and that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s frustrating, it’s a lot of money.”

The trial is scheduled for June of 2017.

The Iowa Partnership for Clean Water is a 501(c)(4) organization.

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