Iowa Rejects Request for Lake Protections

Last week, Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission chose to reject a petition from MRC member group Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) that asked for better water quality protections for Iowa’s recreational lakes.

Iowa has 160 recreational lakes. In the last 12 years, IDNR has closed the state’s beaches nearly 200 times because of harmful algal blooms (HABs) that are formed from excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. Drinking water advisories have left towns without clean water to drink.

The Des Moines register reported that IDNR’s Water Quality Bureau Chief admitted more must be done to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, but then proceeded to vote against the petition. The reason cited was the burden to the individual taxpayer, but MRC has shown many other methods to achieve this pollution reduction instead of billing taxpayers.

Nearly a decade ago, MRC petitioned the EPA to develop numeric limits for pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus. After the petition was denied, MRC filed a lawsuit that was, after appeal, rejected.

EPA’s strategy is to keep pollution reduction efforts a voluntary measure at the state level, so it urged each to develop a “Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS).” MRC’s 2016 report Decades of Delay proved that most of the state NRSs have been utter failures.

Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), another MRC member, stated it was told five years ago to wait on Iowa’s NRS to achieve these reductions. When that proved futile, it filed the petition to IDNR to crack down on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Iowa lakes. As stated above, the petition was denied last week.

As the dance around culpability for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution continues, so too does the prevalence of its effects, such as harmful algal blooms, closed beaches, and drinking water warnings.

MRC is currently asking EPA for a meeting with the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water, Dave Ross, to plead its case for mandatory numeric nutrient standards, without which the vicious cycle of avoiding accountability will continue.

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