News Release

Corporate Agribusiness among Biggest Dumpers of Toxic Chemicals into Iowa’s Rivers

For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release: June 19, 2014

Contact: Ellen Ziesenhene, (478)787-9539 EllenZ@EnvironmentAmerica.org

DES MOINES, IA -- Corporate agribusiness facilities figured prominently among polluters who dumped 6,827,801 pounds of toxic chemicals into Iowa’s waterways in 2012, according to a new report by Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center.  

The “Wasting Our Waterways” report [HYPERLINK] comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a new rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in Iowa and across the nation – a move bitterly opposed by the lobbyists for corporate agribusiness, including the Farm Bureau.

“Iowa’s waterways should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Ally Fields, clean water advocate with Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center. “But too often, our waters have become a dumping ground for polluters. The first step to curb this tide of toxic pollution is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all our waterways.”

Based on data submitted by polluting facilities themselves, the group’s report finds that agribusiness facilities here dumped some of the largest volumes of pollution – not just within Iowa but nationally:

  • The Cargill meat processing plant in Ottumwa was the 6th largest toxic discharger in the nation, dumping 2,889,408 pounds of toxic pollution into the Lower Des Moines River watershed. 
  • Not far behind was the Tyson processing plant in Columbia Junction - the 20th toxic discharger in the nation, dumping 1,774,259 pounds of toxic pollution into the Lower Iowa River watershed. 
  • And Roquette’s corn milling plant in Keokuk was 47th in the nation, releasing 790,000 pounds of toxic pollution into the Flint River-Henderson Creek watershed

The vast majority of these discharges were nitrates - which can cause serious health problems in infants if found in drinking water and which contribute to oxygen-depleted “dead zones.”  For example, pollution in the Mississippi River watershed has contributed to the massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center report on toxic pollutants discharged to America’s waters is based on data reported by polluting facilities to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2012, the most recent data available.

Of the several steps needed to curb this tide of toxic pollution, Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center’s is highlighting one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: Restoring the Clean Water Act protections to Iowa’s waters.

 As a result of court cases brought by polluters, 44,432 miles of streams in Iowa and 667,428 Iowans’ drinking water are now at risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act Following years of advocacy by Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center’s and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Iowa’s waterways and risk and restore Clean Water Act protections.

But corporate agribusiness is vigorously opposing the clean water rule. 

“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Ally Fields.  “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary Iowans to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C.  The future of the Des Moines River hangs in the balance.”

The public comment period on the clean water rule began the day before Earth Day, and it is still open right now.

“Iowa’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Fields.  “If we want waterways like the Des Moines River to be clean for future generations of Iowans, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”

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Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard.