The state’s largest water utility could not use one of its main sources for drinking water for more than three months this past year.
The Des Moines Water Works taps into the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers to provide drinking water to more than half a million central Iowans. Des Moines Water Works CEO Ted Corrigan says the Des Moines River was “essentially unusable” as a source late last summer and into the fall.
“We had microcistyn concentrations in the Des Moines River at our intake that were above the EPA health advisory level for drinking water for 110 days in a row,” he says.
Microcistyns are toxins produced by blue-green algae and can cause hives and rashes on the skin as well as liver damage if the water is swallowed. The utility doesn’t have a way to treat the water to remove those toxins.
Nearly six years ago, the utility’s board of directors voted to sue over ag-related water contamination. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but some environment groups continue to press for mandatory limits on farm chemical use. Corrigan says the utility is looking for a path between legislation and litigation to promote clean water in central Iowa.
(By Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters)