Des Moines water utility threatens lawsuit over nitrates

dm water works-labThe board of Des Moines Water Works—the public water utility for the city of Des Moines—will vote Thursday on whether to pursue a lawsuit against three northwestern Iowa counties that manage drainage districts with high concentrations of nitrates.

The counties are Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun.

Water Works officials say nitrates flowing into the Raccoon River threaten the city’s water quality. They say they were forced to activate their nitrate removal facility in early December due to unseasonably high nitrate levels in both the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers,  at a cost of about four-thousand dollars a day. In 2013, the removal facility was used for 74 days, which officials say cost the city about 900-thousand dollars in treatment costs and lost revenues.

If the Water Works board votes to proceed, as expected, it would trigger a 60-day notice sent to the boards of supervisors in the three counties notifying them of the board’s intention to file a lawsuit. Board chairman Graham Gillettee told the Des Moines Register that a lawsuit is necessary to engage the government, “especially the state of Iowa, in a serious discussion about regulating those pollutants that are dumped into our source water”.

Photo courtesy Des Moines Water Works

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