The state’s Environmental Protection Commission has approved controversial new rules to toughen Iowa’s water quality standards. Opponents say the rules will prove too costly to rural communities that will be forced to install new equipment to reduce water pollution.
Christina Gruenhagen is a lawyer for the Iowa Farm Bureau. “Farmers want clean water, but the questions that you need to ask yourself about this…is what are Iowans willing to pay for?” she asked the Environmental Protection Commission Tuesday. “Is there a better way to accomplish these same goals?” The Farm Bureau’s legal counsel says too many streams which aren’t used for swimming or fishing today will be designated as in need of clean-up. “It’s going to make it more difficult for new businesses, such as ethanol and biodiesel plants, to locate in rural areas and Iowans will receive a false impression that the quality of these streams is bad,” Gruenhagen says.
But Department of Natural Resources director Jeff Vonk says the agency will do all it can to help Iowa’s small communities reduce water pollution, and he accuses opponents of the rules of engaging in “scare tactics.” “I don’t think that the record of this department in working with small communities would bear out the fact that we’re going to put any community out of business or that we’re going to create any undue hardship,” Vonk says.
Debbie Neustadt, a biology teacher at a Des Moines high school, says the state should do all it can to ensure that you can safely swim or fish in every waterway in Iowa. “That’s the goal of the Clean Water Act, to restore the waters of the United States,” Neustadt says. “Restore Iowa’s water because I believe when you have (clean) water, you can have a functioning ecosystem.” Neustadt testified Tuesday before the state Environmental Protection Commission on Tuesday. While that panel has approved the tougher water quality rules, the new standards aren’t likely to go into effect anytime soon as legislators threaten to use their authority to block implementation.