Des Moines Water Works Responds to Iowa Supreme Court; Federal Permit Lawsuit Continues
Friday, January 27, 2017
In response to the Federal Court’s certified questions, the Iowa Supreme Court issued its opinion today, after hearing oral argument for the questions last September. The Court, in a 3-2 decision, has answered the certified state law questions against certain claims made by Des Moines Water Works against drainage districts for water pollution.
“While we are disappointed in the decision of the Court not to provide an opportunity for relief to Des Moines Water Works ratepayers, we respect the opinion of the Court. Unresolved questions of permitting and, ultimately regulation, are not addressed yet, and remain at the heart of the federal case,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision was an opportunity for moving 100-year old Iowa law progressively forward on water quality issues never before considered, but that opportunity did not command a majority on the Court. We were pleased Chief Justice Cady stated in his separate opinion that ‘Pollution of our streams is a wrong, irrespective of its source or its cause” and look toward a day when a majority of the Court may agree.”
Des Moines Water Works filed the federal complaint in the Northern District of Iowa, on March 16, 2015, against the Boards of Supervisors of Buena Vista County, Calhoun County, and Sac County, in their capacities as trustees of 10 drainage districts, for the discharge of nitrate pollutants into the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa customers.
The opinion from the Iowa Supreme Court is an important milestone; however, it is just one step in a larger process in the federal court case. The Federal Court will have the last word on the lawsuit as a whole. The Federal trial date of June 2017 is still on schedule.
“Des Moines Water Works remains committed to protecting Iowa’s surface waters from unregulated agricultural water pollution,” said Stowe. “We are moving forward through the legal process to benefit Des Moines Water Works ratepayers, and ultimately, all Iowans, from the public health risks and economic costs passed downstream.”
Water monitoring at 72 sample sites in Buena Vista, Calhoun, and Sac Counties showed nitrate levels as high as 39.2 mg/L in groundwater discharged by drainages districts – four times the federally required Safe Drinking Water nitrate regulatory limit of 10 mg/L. Laws require that point sources discharging into rivers must have permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Because drainage districts transport nitrate pollution through a system of channels and pipes, they should be recognized and held accountable like every other point source contributor. NPDES permits have been successful nationwide in controlling pollution caused by industrial waste and sanitary sewer discharge.
About Des Moines Water Works
Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is a municipal water utility serving the citizens of Des Moines and surrounding communities - approximately 500,000 customers. DMWW is an independently operated public utility with a commitment to leading, advocating and investing today and in the future to deliver water you can trust for life.
- Organizational Chart
- Board of Water Works Trustees
- News Releases
- Media Resources
- Energy Management
If you would like to learn more about Des Moines Water Works, please contact: