The lawsuit alleges that the counties violated the Clean Water Act
The Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works (DMWW) board of directors unanimously chose to sue three rural counties upstream of the city’s drinking water intake system.
In the lawsuit, DMWW accuses the heavily agricultural upstream counties of violating the Clean Water Act by failing to obtain permits to limit nitrate pollution from their drainage systems. It further states that these violations have caused elevated levels of nitrates in the water, which DMWW must treat in order to provide clean drinking water to 500,000 people in central Iowa.
“The lawsuit raises important questions about the … failure of Iowa’s all-voluntary nutrient reduction strategy to achieve the reductions necessary for cleaner water,” said Susan Heathcote, water policy director for Iowa Environmental Council.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently requires that states develop and implement their own nutrient reduction strategies.
Since 2008, the Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) has pressured EPA to establish federal standards for water quality relating to nitrogen and phosphorus. In 2012, MRC groups successfully sued EPA for denial of its petition for the agency to take action; EPA has since appealed the decision.