New map highlights impact of logging facilities on waterways / Public Information Service

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Some of Iowa’s largest sources of drinking water struggle with runoff from ranching facilities and farm sites. A new interactive map connects dots regarding slaughterhouse pollution as federal regulators urged to update standards.

The digital map was released by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, which shows that in 2019, treatment facilities released more than 28 million pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus into U.S. rivers and streams.

The group’s Clean Water program director John Rumpler said given the health risks posed by this runoff, there must be a serious wake-up call about food production.

“We shouldn’t have to pollute our water to grow our food,” Rumpler said. “Here in the 21st century – the United States of America – we can and must do better than that.”

The map shows that the Des Moines River system is affected by eight treatment facilities that release nearly 500,000 pounds of waste. A key tributary, the Raccoon River, was recently placed on the List of the most threatened rivers from a separate American Rivers group.

Iowa agriculture officials criticized the ranking, pointing to nutrient reduction efforts in the state. During this time, Environment America sues the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, saying it has been slow to update pollution control standards.

The agency did not respond to a request for comment before the deadline.

Rumpler noted that updated standards are required under the Clean Water Act, as technology permits. But the standards for large installations have not been revised since 2004.

“This is the last time these standards have been updated for the largest meat and poultry processing plants,” Rumpler said. “For the little ones, many of them still operate according to the standards that were set in 1975.”

Rumpler argued that factories with advanced technology have been found to produce less pollution.

The map includes data from the US Department of Agriculture and the EPA.

As the legal process unfolds, the group says the project is intended to educate the public on what is going on with local water supplies.

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