Help keep Iowa streams safe for swimming and playing

I received this action alert from the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter on Friday:

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to lower recreational use protections on 119 stream segments that protect for swimming, children’s play and other full body contact recreational uses (A1 and A3) to a less protective secondary contact recreational standard that only protects for incidental contact with the water (A2) – click here to see the streams listed.

If the streams’ protections are reduced or eliminated, sewage treatment plants and other facilities will be allowed to continue releasing wastewater into them with harmful levels of bacteria and other pollutants.

It is important for everyone who knows what types of recreational activities occur on any of these 119 streams to provide comments to the DNR if they are aware of any primary contact recreational activities on these streams including swimming, children’s play (including wading), canoeing or kayaking.

Your personalized comments are critical to ensure the recreational standards will not be lowered for waters used for recreation and children’s play.

Sewage that has not been disinfected may contain viruses, parasites, and other pathogens that can make people sick with ear infections, typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, dysentery, and other illnesses.  Pathogens such as fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria are indicators of poor water quality and possible contamination with human or animal waste.  Waters with elevated levels of fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria are considered unsafe to swim in or for children and adolescents to play in.

Tell the DNR your experience recreating on these stream segments and that you do not want protections downgraded.

Here’s a complete list of the threatened streams. Please take a moment to submit a public comment on this issue, especially if you’ve ever played or taken your family to play in any of those waters.

Water pollution is already a huge problem in Iowa. DNR head Rich Leopold knows this, because he gave the state a C- for water quality in his first annual Environmental Report Card last month. Even that grade was too generous, according to the environmental advocates I know.

The DNR should be striving on every front to make Iowa waters cleaner, not downgrading the level of protection for any rivers, lakes or streams. I would like to be able to let my kids wade in a creek during the summer.

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