The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently unveiled a new plan to reduce toxic runoff into the states waterways. The goal is to reduce runoff in Iowa by 45-percent in the next few years. Today is the deadline for public comment on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
It involves a blend of science and technology to help stem the tide of toxic runoff from factories, leaky pipes and agricultural waste. Dean Lemke, with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, says there’s a real desire by agribusinesses and farmers to become leaders in cleaning up the environment.
“There’s very strong engagement to this strategy by the ag organizations and institutional frameworks…that doesn’t mean every farmer has heard of it yet, but those are all incremental, important steps,” Lemke said. The strategy doesn’t require farmers to do anything different, but Lemke believes there will be willing volunteers.
Amelia Schoeneman, with Environment Iowa, isn’t so sure. “We are asking (the DNR) to put in place numeric nutrient criteria and mandate corporate agribusiness to stop polluting because that’s really the only way we are going to see the reductions necessary to clean up the waterways in our state,” Schoeneman said.
Runoff from waste water plants will be regulated, but Schoeneman said that won’t do near enough to reach the reduction goal. “What we’re seeing right now is just complete status quo policy coming out of this nutrient reduction strategy,” Schoeneman said. “We need regulations. That’s the bottom line.”
Lemke is betting that farmers and agribusiness will step up to the plate. “This strategy is an opportunity for us to move forward through adoption of technologies, through making individual decisions, as opposed to trying some other framework that may not afford that kind of local decision making,” Lemke said.
As of last week, the proposed strategy had received almost 600 pages of public comment.