A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the three-year study of Iowa’s wetlands shows some "alarming" results. Lowell Washburn says the study tested 60 wetlands for 104 separate contaminants.
Washburn says the hygienics lab found that 97-percent of the wetlands showed "measurable traces of herbicides, pesticides and other chemical contaminants." He says the tests also showed "high but widely ranging levels of phosphorus and nitrogen." Washburn says the tests are further concern when compared with the national studies of wetlands stretching up into Canada.
Washburn says in all categories examined, "Iowa wetlands had the highest levels of all the things you don’t want to see in a wetland, all the contaminants, all the pollutants." And he says Iowa wetlands had the lowest numbers of all the things you do want to see in the wetlands. "So, it’s extremely alarming," Washburn says, "the study is going to continue, and I think it’s going to be a real eye opener for all the people living in the state." Washburn says it’s a concern because the wetlands are the filters for the state’s water. Washburn says they don’t know from this study the impact of the contaminants on the wildlife in the waterways.
Washburn says the million dollar question is "at what level do these compromised wetlands begin to have a negative impact on aquatic life forms?" Washburn says they’ll have to collect all the data and make a determination on that question. Washburn says they did have a hard time even finding a waterway that was clean enough to use as a baseline for the study. And he says there already some indications that the contaminants are already causing problems in Iowa waterways.
Washburn says a lot of the invertebrate forms of life seem to be disappearing from the wetlands. Washburn says there’s a "very, very large body of at least circumstantial evidence that poor quality in Iowa wetlands is one of the major reasons, if not the reason, that we’ve seen a very dramatic decline in the number of lesser scaup (skopp) ducks." Washburn says the ducks aren’t finding enough food in the wetlands of Iowa to sustain them as they migrate across the state, which leads to fewer eggs. Washburn says they need to use the information from the study to build benchmarks for measuring the problem.
Washburn that will allow them to establish a database and expand the study statewide and then he’s not sure what will happen. "Somebody’s gonna have to decide if water quality…is important to do something about," Washburn says, "and then we have to decide what needs to be done and how we’re going to accomplish that." Washburn admits there are critics of the research, but says there were similar criticisms when concerns about the impact of chemical DDT on the environment were first raised. DDT was eventually banned in 1972.