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Northwest Iowa Town No Longer Sending Untreated Wastewater Into River

Clay Masters
IPR file

A northwest Iowa city that was discharging untreated wastewater into the Little Sioux River has contracted with a manure hauler to stop the releases.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the hauler is pumping wastewater from the city of Quimby’s lift station into a tanker and transporting it across the river into the city’s lagoon. State environmental officials estimate 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was going into the river each day from a broken city sewer line under the river reported Monday.

Tom Roos, an environmental specialist senior with the DNR, said other options were considered to divert the wastewater, but hauling it seems to be the safest.

“The options were either pump it and haul it, string a line, which would’ve been about two miles through a residential area across the bridge to the lagoons and pump it directly, or the other option that was looked at was stringing a pipe across the top of the river and going to the lagoons," Roos said.

The Little Sioux River at Cherokee has been above minor flood stage for at least this past week, but is now 2.4 inches below flood stage. Roos said the amount of water in the river from recent rain likely diluted the wastewater, avoiding any environmental impacts like a fish kill.

“We’ve just asked the city to take a look and see,” Roos said. “We don’t anticipate any type of fish kill or any other significant environmental impacts from it.”

According to the DNR, wastewater will be hauled until the broken sewer line is fixed or replaced.

Quimby’s wastewater operator declined to comment.

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Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.