# Water Quality



Iowa environmentalists react to Inflation Reduction Act

Meaningful Congressional action on climate change seemed doomed in the 50-50 U.S. Senate after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia tanked President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal earlier this year. But on August 7, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking 51st vote to approve the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. All Republicans, including Iowa’s Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, voted against final passage.

Assuming the U.S. House approves the bill (a vote is scheduled for August 12), Biden is poised to sign into law “the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far.” In addition to significant changes to the tax system and health care policy, the massive package includes $369 billion in spending aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean energy.

According to summaries of the bill’s energy and climate provisions, enclosed in full below, the bill could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. However, the bill’s incentives for the fossil fuels industry—which were necessary to get Manchin on board—are troubling for many environmental advocates.

Bleeding Heartland sought comment from some Iowans who have been engaged in policy battles related to climate change and the environment.

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Nitrate water levels threaten health

Tom Walton is an Iowa attorney and was a Democratic primary candidate in Iowa House district 28.

In early June, the Des Moines Water Works turned on its nitrate removal facility for the first time in five years. It had to do so because of increasing nitrate levels in in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Extra treatment is required to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Standards. For nitrate, that level is 10 milligrams of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) per liter of water. Des Moines Water Works provides drinking water to roughly 600,000 central Iowans.

This has been an ongoing battle. In 2013, nitrogen levels at the testing equipment near Van Meter upstream from on the Raccoon River from Des Moines were a record 24 mg/L—more than double the EPA safe level. On June 2 of this year, that station measured a median of 20.4 mg/L.

However, a growing body of scientific research indicates that long-term ingestion of water from public water sources with nitrogen levels below the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) have been associated with a higher risk of some forms of cancer and other adverse health effects, although more study is needed to support more conclusive results.

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Environmental scorecard for the Iowans in Congress

Sheri Albrecht is a member of Indivisible Cedar Rapids Metro and on the executive committees of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter and Cedar-Wapsie Group.

EcoFest 2022 was held on April 23 at the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids in celebration of Earth Day.

Our local Indivisible CR Metro group hosted a table. We had three goals: 1) Find out what issues were most important to the people who visited our table; 2) In keeping with the ecological theme of the event, provide data showing attendees how their legislative representatives voted on environmental issues; and 3) Encourage ordinary citizens to engage with their elected representatives.

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Interview: John Norwood outlines his vision for Iowa agriculture

Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner John Norwood announced on February 7 that he will run for Iowa secretary of agriculture as a Democrat. In a news release enclosed at the end of this post, Norwood promised to “protect urban and rural consumers, expand economic opportunities around diversified food and agricultural production, and advocate for the needs of ALL food, grain, and livestock producers.”

He added that he wants to create a “a modern vision for Iowa for its highly productive but “unbalanced” agricultural system,” in order to provide “healthy soil, clean air, swimmable/fishable waters and safe drinking water for everyone.”

Norwood expanded on his vision in a recent telephone interview with Bleeding Heartland. (Disclosure: I have known the candidate since before this website existed and consider him a friend.)

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Iowans don’t want carbon pipelines - here’s why

This post was co-authored by Emma Schmit, Food & Water Watch; Jess Mazour, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter; Caitlin Golle, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; Mahmud Fitil, Great Plains Action Society; and Angie Carter, Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Virtually unknown two months ago, proposed hazardous liquid carbon pipelines are the latest environmental disaster to hit Iowa’s newspaper headlines. Threatening everything from peoples’ lives to their land and our climate, it’s no surprise these pipelines have garnered mass opposition from the get-go, uniting Iowans of all stripes.

On behalf of the 73,000 Iowans we represent, with members in every county, we oppose carbon capture pipelines. Carbon pipelines are a danger to Iowans and our land, a false climate solution, and a distraction from the real work of reforming our agricultural and energy sectors to combat the looming climate emergency. They are an affront to our shared vision for Iowa’s future — where communities work together to protect our water, land and climate for future generations and those who live downstream.

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Drinking water, vaccines, and the tragedy of the commons

 Richard Lindgren is Emeritus Professor of Business at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, now retired in Gulf Coast Florida. He blogs at godplaysdice.com.

Before a planned international trip for a humanitarian non-governmental organization a few years ago, I received cholera and typhoid vaccinations as part of a set of several jabs administered by Iowa’s Polk County Health Department. Despite some transient ill effects, I survived to tell the tale, one more unsung miracle performed daily without fanfare by the protectors of our public health.

In 1854, Dr. John Snow physically mapped out London’s cholera epidemic of that year and demonstrated that cholera is a water-borne disease, that outbreak mostly tied to a single sewage-contaminated water well. It took a very bad year of sewage stench four years later before the city committed money to begin building the most impressive sewer system in the world for its day in order to protect the common water supply.

The contamination of London’s water supply was a classic example of “the tragedy of the commons.” And in Iowa it still is! Governor Kim Reynolds managed to gloat recently over a long-needed plan to spend $100 million to improve Iowa’s often stinky, fertilizer-and-hog-manure-contaminated public water supplies. The new money, she said in her official press release, comes from some mysterious “ARPA.” Unsaid is that this is the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” enacted over the opposition of every Republican in Congress.

The larger “commons” in 2021 is not London’s drinking water, rather it is our own public health, of which our drinking water is but a part. Our public health, too, has begun to stink.

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