A news release we'd like to get someday from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources


November 8, 2019

Iowa DNR investigating discharge and likely fish kill in Gulf of Mexico

RACCOON RIVER WATERSHED – A pipe draining water from a corn field about five miles southeast of Adel in Butler County sent Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) staff to the farm Saturday to investigate.

Heavy rains in the area led to a large quantity of storm water runoff which was contaminated with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Much of the chemically tainted water was collected by the field's drain tiles and then flowed into an underground pipe that empties into a tributary of the Raccoon River.

Farm operator John Doe tested the water coming out of the pipe and discovered it had very high levels of the two chemicals, known to lower oxygen levels in streams, lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, where the hypoxia has created a so-called "dead zone" where fish and other aquatic animals cannot survive.

The farm owner and his crew worked overnight to cap the drain tile pipe and remove the contaminated water from the creek.

When the IDNR staff arrived Saturday morning, pumping to return the polluted water to the farmer's fields continued, but very little of the contaminated water was able to be recaptured.

Field tests downstream in the Raccoon River showed elevated levels of both nitrogen and phosphorus.

The farm chemical runoff is expected to reach the Gulf of Mexico is about a week and add to the dead zone along the Louisiana coast near the mouth of Mississippi River.

As a result, thousands of fish and shellfish will die and the size of the hypoxia area will expand beyond its current 6,472 square miles, an area larger than the state of Connecticut.

The DNR will continue to monitor stream cleanup and will consider appropriate enforcement action. 


And now, back to reality.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) findings, Iowa is among nine states contributing over 70 percent of the dead zone-causing nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants. The nine states are: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi.

The USGS also found that 42 of the top 150 watersheds most responsible for the dead zone pollution are in Iowa.

From the recently released 2017 Report to Congress by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force:

"In 2015, this monitoring documented that the midsummer area extent of the 2015 hypoxic zone was 6,474 square miles (NOAA 2015). That size is larger than the long-term average of 5,240 square miles as well as the average over the last five years of 5,415 square miles.

"It is still much larger than the Hypoxia Task Force coastal goal of 1,931 square miles, indicating that nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed are continuing to affect the nation’s coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf. The observed dead zone area was larger than the predicted June forecast range of 4,633 square miles to 5,985 square miles (NOAA and USGS 2015).

Researchers suggest that heavy rains in June and high river discharges in July may provide an explanation for the larger zone measurement."

CLICK HERE to download the full Hypoxia Task Force report to Congress.

Greg Gackle is editor of bettendorf.com and president/principal of GAH, Inc. He worked in newspapers and corporate communications before opening his own communications firm. He can be reached at ggackle@gmail.com

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