Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit
Location: Drake University
Featuring: Neil Hamilton, Director of the Agricultural Law Center
“The Des Moines Water Works is frustrated. They’ve got half a million customers and they’ve got to meet federal pollution standards with every gallon they put out. The water’s coming down [to Des Moines], and it’s impacted by agriculture. I don't think there’s a lot of debate about that; it’s the most significant source from where these nutrients are coming from.
So, it’s not to say we need to stop farming in Northwest Iowa, or that you can’t use nitrogen to grow corn. I don't even think they are necessarily interested in money damages. Iowa law is very clear that they can’t recover money from the districts. What they want is somebody to do something. Show you’re going to do something to deal with all these nitrates that are leaking ... because it doesn’t look like anyone wants to take responsibility.”
To understand why the Des Moines Waterworks decided to sue drainage districts in three upstream counties for nitrates in their drinking water, students from Ames High School paid a visit to Neil Hamilton.
Des Moines Waterworks filed suit against Iowa’s Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties, claiming that their county-managed drainage districts serve as conduits for nitrate moving from farm fields into the Raccoon River, one of two water sources for 500,000 residents in the Des Moines metro area.
Des Moines Water Works is asking three major questions:
1) Can drainage ditches be treated like waste treatment plants and factories as point-sources for water pollution?
2) Who should pay DMWW defense fees?: the county (taxpayers) or the people ? Perhaps people who own land in these drainage districts?
3) Can the true source of nitrate in the Raccon River be determined?”