Lake Clean Up

Christopher Waters, ISU alumnus and software engineer, and Dahson Rhone, junior in biology, help each other pick up trash on Sunday, Oct. 13, for Greeks Go Green lake cleanup at Lake LaVerne.

The Iowa DNR issued fines to 300 people without life jackets on July 6. But what is the DNR doing to keep us safe from pollution hidden in our water?

I want to feel confident the water that my husband and I "play" in is safe. We paddle board and enjoy being on lakes in central Iowa. We also have pups that we bring to the beach and I want to know that they can be in the water or drink the water without health concerns. 

Recent and alarming reports say nitrate pollution is responsible for about 300 cases of cancer each year. 

Factory farms creating 22 billion gallons of waste that is dumped on farm fields across the state. This waste runs off into the already 750 impaired waterways in the state, filling the water with dangerous levels of nitrates, phosphorus and e coli.

With facts like that, it is hard to be confident our water is safe.

We were just in Canada a few weeks ago. The water was crystal clear and so clean that we could wash dishes without fear that it would be dangerous. I kept thinking that there is no lake in Iowa that is that clean.

I would like to hope the future of Iowa’s water could be similar.

But until the DNR gets serious about holding polluters accountable and we have mandatory measures to reduce nitrate runoff from factory farms, Iowan’s water won’t be safe. No matter how many life jackets you have on board.

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Letter to the Editor Submission Link

(1) comment

Jade Gerlitz

There are quite a few issues with this letter. First, I feel it is only fair if I provide some sort of credentials to why what I'm saying is based in fact and truth. I'm currently studying Agricultural Engineering with an emphasis on land and water resources. This is also my second year working for the USDA National Lab for Agricultural and the Environment. I research nitrate runoff and ways to mitigate it in an every changing climate. The most glaring issue with this letter is the idea that just because Canada's water is "clear" doesn't make it free from pollutants or safe to drink. Nitrate is microscopic. You could be in crystal clear tap water and have an illegally high amount of nitrate in it. Another issue is the idea that "factory farms" is the cause of this. First, the idea of factory farming is extremely blown out of proportion, but that would need to be talked about in an entire article rather just a comment. Second, nitrate runoff is from fertilizer on fields NOT animal farms. Due to climate change we have been having abnormal wet springs which is when fertilizer is added. The rain water causes the nitrate in the fertilizer to either run off or infiltrate into the ground too quickly, not allowing it to be taken up by the crops. To mitigate this, we try to tile drain fields into bioreactors or add cover crop to allow a crop to first pick up the fertilizer. Another way non-farmers can help is to help reduce climate change, but again, that's for another article. Furthermore, on the topic of cancer, smoking causes more instances of that each year, obesity related cancers and deaths are greatly higher than that. I'm not saying we shouldn't focus on it because the number of deaths are high enough, I'm saying that maybe we should look at other reasons to work towards mitigating nitrate runoff like the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico or Blue Baby Syndrome, both better arguments than a single study that could potentially be falsely linked. Lastly, and most likely my biggest issue with this letter, is that it assumes we aren't working on mitigating the problem. The USDA puts out articles yearly discussing the topic and ways to mitigate it. I am currently working on two different research papers on the matters. Furthermore, multiple professors at Iowa State work on research related to pollution and nitrate runoff. The issue is it's an uphill battle since farmers are protected under the EPA's clean water act, so if you'd like to blame anyone for not doing enough blame 1972 America, but especially not the DNR since they have little if anything to do with this issue.

All that being said, an entire article could be written about the matter and I would gladly do it since education is the first step to creating change. But also, I hope this was satirical writing that I just didn't pick up on.

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