- Associated Press - Saturday, May 30, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The three rural Iowa counties targeted in a federal lawsuit by a Des Moines water provider have filed a response denying that they contributing to high nitrate levels in rivers.

A team of attorneys representing Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties submitted the response in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Iowa on May 22, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1KuUDyr ).

“Defendants admit water quality always is an issue, deny that they are responsible for … any such pollution,” the 29-page court document said.

The lawsuit filed earlier this year says the three counties should be required to obtain federal water pollution discharge permits because they release nitrate pollutants into rivers much like regulated factories. The nitrate comes from fertilizer and manure from 1.2 million hogs and a million turkeys that is spread on the fields in the three counties.

Water Works also seeks $900,000 it spent in 2013 and $540,000 this year to operate an expensive treatment system to remove nitrates from water.

Nitrate in drinking water must be below 10 milligrams per liter to be considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. Anything above that level can be deadly to infants younger than 6 months because the chemical can reduce the amount of oxygen carried in their blood, causing a condition called Blue Baby syndrome which can be fatal, according to the EPA.

Recent upstream monitoring recorded levels as high as 39.2 milligrams per liter in groundwater discharged by drainage districts in Sac County.

Similar cases in other states, including California, North Carolina and Washington, are challenging farms to reduce pollutants.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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