Water pollution is a growing concern in Iowa with nearly 500 rivers, streams, and lakes listed by the EPA as impaired. On Monday, Governor Branstad launched a new website encouraging efforts to reduce those issues, and one local wastewater plant is leading by example.
The new Regional Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Clinton has been operating for just over a year. It's the first biological nutrient removal facility in the state. That means it has the ability to remove nitrogen and phosphorus before the finished product is sent to the Mississippi River. The plant is referenced as a good practice at work on cleanwateriowa.org. The state hopes the website can be a new resource for homeowners, farmers, or cities.
For water plants to remove those nutrients, it helps cut down on problems with algae removing oxygen from the water. Stricter nutrient discharge limits are not expected to be regulated for another five to ten years, but the city of Clinton did this in anticipation of future standards.
"What the federal government does is they want everybody in the Mississippi basin to look at different ways to remove nitrogen and phosphorus," said Bob Milroy, Assistant Superintendent at the plant. "We tried to be ahead of the game, and it actual saved us money."
The new wastewater capabilities in Clinton were a huge project, to the tune of about $60 million dollars when all was said and done. But adding the capabilities to remove biological nutrients was a small cost in proportion to the total price tag, and will hopefully make a big difference.
All the agriculture in Iowa a big contributor to water pollution, too. The wet spring this year caused some rivers in central Iowa to record the highest nitrate levels ever.