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Pollutants in Iowa's Watershed

The Des Moines River.

A report released today by Environment Iowa Research and Policy Center listed Cargill Meat Solutions’s pork processing plant in Ottumwa as the state’s number one disposer of toxic chemicals into waterways.

In 2012 Cargill disposed more than 2,800,000 lbs of chemicals into the Lower Des Moines River.

Cargill’s Director of Communications Mike Martin says his company takes environmental stewardship very seriously.

"We have a very large pork processing facility in Ottumwa....And what we’re talking about here is organic, nitrogen based compounds, that have no toxicity to aquatic life, but they do have to be recorded."

Environment Iowa’s senior attorney John Rumpler disagrees. He says discharge from companies like Cargill hurts aquatic life by causing large blooms of algae.

"For example we have a giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico because of the all the nitrogen and nitrates and phosphorous following down the Mississippi River...Very little can survive."

Of all industrial plants nationwide, the Ottumwa facility is the ninth largest polluter of watersheds.  The report also lists the Tyson Fresh Meats facility in Dakota City, NE as the sixth largest polluter. That facility disposes of its waste into the Blackbird-Solider watershed which flows into Iowa.

Environment Iowa released the report in hopes of eliciting public support for a rule change to the Clean Water Act, that would expand the EPA’s jurisdiction beyond navigable waterways to seasonal streams and wetlands.