State officials are on the look-out for more drinking water problems in municipal systems today in northeast Iowa. Alan Moore of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says sometimes heavy rains cause wastewater and sewage system bypasses that end up in a city or rural water district’s drinking water system.
"Eastern Iowa was the big thing this weekend with a lot of rains up in northeast Iowa," Moore says. "With…another storm rolling through today, who knows what’s going to happen. I’m expecting some more bypasses to occur in the next day or so." Last Friday, residents in the city of Ottumwa and those served by the Rathbun Regional Water Association were advised to boil their water when rains swamped Ottumwa’s water treatment plant.
"Basically, the boiling will kill any contaminants that might be in the water," Moore says. "…Anytime someone is using the water for personal consumption — drinking, brushing their teeth or anything else where the water might actually be ingested — it’s best to boil that water." If there’s been any silver-lining in the clouds that have unleashed torrential rains over the state the past two weeks, Moore says it’s that any contaminants that get washed into drinking water supplies get washed out pretty quickly.
"A lot of times in cases like this where we’ve had such high, intense, frequent storms like we had — you know, we were getting rain virtually every day — that’s pumping storm water, rain water into those creeks and obviously the flow is very, very high and it almost immediately dilutes anything else that’s going into those rivers and streams and moves on downstream rather quickly," Moore says.
As for today, Moore and others in the DNR’s environmental services division are hoping today’s rains don’t cause drinking water concerns. "Hopefully, we’ve seen the worst of it," Moore says. "It’s been a very odd August, I guess, for rainfall, and hopefully we’ll dodge this one and get back to normal."