The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is asking for more public input before lowering water quality standards for more than a hundred streams statewide. After conducting field assessments, the D.N.R. determined 119 streams in 58 counties don’t deserve to be classified as fishable and swimable.
That classification demands higher environmental protections under the federal clean water act. Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, says she worries the D.N.R is giving up on some streams that could be improved.
"We’re looking at not just trying to assess the actual current uses of streams but assess what uses are attainable if the water quality was improved," Heathcote says. "Because some streams people don’t recreate in because they’re already polluted."
She says many of these streams are downriver from waste water treatment plants that would have to adopt new disinfection practices if the streams are classified as fishable and swimable. Heathcote says local residents need to speak out if they disagree with the D.N.R.’s plans.
"When the D.N.R. does the assessment, they typically go out to the site for a single visit," she says. "They only see what is a snapshot and local people obviously visit their streams more frequently than that and they would have a better knowledge of what types of activities are taking place in those streams."
Heathcote says Iowans have until May 20th to contact the state about a stream in their area. The D.N.R. has a list of the waterways on its website or you can see a map of the streams on the Iowa Environmental Council’s website .