- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Lawyers for three northwest Iowa counties being sued by a Des Moines water utility are asking a judge to dismiss two of the lawsuit’s 10 claims.

In court papers filed last week, an attorney for Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties said the U.S. District Court in Sioux City has no jurisdiction over claims that the counties violated the Clean Water Act and state laws, the Sioux City Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1VHo8ET ) Saturday.

The lawsuit filed last year by Des Moines Water Works alleges the three counties that oversee 10 agricultural drainage districts should be required to obtain federal water pollution discharge permits because they release pollutants into rivers much like regulated factories.

For nearly a century, Iowa farmers have drained farmland to make it better for growing crops, often changing the landscape and sometimes sending pollutants - such as nitrates and phosphorous - downstream. Nitrate in drinking water must be below 10 milligrams per liter to be considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. Anything above that can be deadly to infants younger than 6 months because the chemical can reduce the amount of oxygen carried in their blood.

Attorney Michael Reck, representing the counties, said in his filing to dismiss the two claims that the counties’ drainage districts have no regulating authority over landowners who install tiles to drain their fields.

No hearing has been set on the request to dismiss the claims. The utility has until May 5 to respond.

The utility is seeking damages of more than $1.4 million it has spent for increased filtration methods to remove the nitrates from water. If nitrate levels remain high, utility officials have said, a new water treatment system costing $75 million to $175 million will be needed.


Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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