Raccoon River Lawsuit Could Have Statewide Implications

Wed 12-4-2019

(Des Moines)-- A lawsuit over nutrient pollution in a portion of Iowa's Raccoon River will stretch into 2020 as arguments are heard by the Iowa Supreme Court. 

A district judge has rejected the state's request to dismiss the lawsuit, brought by two nonprofits: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch. Instead, the state's high court will determine if the suit moves forward. Brent Newell, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, believes a common law known as the "public trust doctrine" has been violated...Raccoon River Lawsuit01 

"What this lawsuit does is, it sets out legal arguments for why that right exists in Iowa law, and why the state has a duty to protect the public's right to clean water."

Iowa C-C-I and other groups have tried for years to slow the growth of the hog industry in Iowa. The lawsuit asks the court to order mandatory limits on nitrogen and phosphorous pollution entering the Raccoon River watershed. The portion of the river mentioned in the lawsuit is between the Des Moines River confluence and the Dallas and Polk county line. 

The suit also asks the courts to issue a moratorium on new and expanding hog confinement facilities in the watershed. 

Two years ago, a similar lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works over high nitrate levels was dismissed by a federal judge who suggested Iowa's water quality was an issue for the Legislature. State lawmakers implemented the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, but Newell argues that, because it's only voluntary, it isn't enough...Raccoon River Lawsuit02 

"And clean water shouldn't be a blue issue, it shouldn't be a red issue. It is the right of Iowans to have clean water, and that's what we hope the Iowa Supreme Court will ultimately recognize."

High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous contribute to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone each summer, and exacerbate toxic blue-green algae blooms in Iowa's lakes.

(From the Iowa News Service).