Letter to the editor: Regulations needed to control Iowa nitrates

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Aadministration scientists forecast this summer’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone or "dead zone" -- an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life -- to be approximately 7,829 square miles or roughly the size of the land mass of Massachusetts. The annual prediction is based on U.S. Geological Survey river flow and nutrient data. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

To the editor:

Here are some interesting facts about Iowa’s water problem and the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico: Iowa is only 3 percent of the land that makes up the Mississippi Watershed. Of all the water that is in the Mississippi River when it reaches the Gulf, only 6 percent of the water has flowed through Iowa.

However, Iowa contributes 45 percent of all the nitrates that end up in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the dead zone in the Gulf.

The nitrates are difficult to remove by municipal water treatment plants and also expensive to remove.

New studies from the University of Iowa have shown that nitrates in drinking water cause more types of cancer than previously thought, including cancer of the ovaries, thyroid, kidneys, bladder and particularly of the colon and rectum.

Better agricultural practices can reduce farm field runoff and keep nitrates out of Iowa’s streams. The nitrates come from commercial fertilizer and hog manure. Iowa’s voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy, meant to solve this problem, is not working.

More regulations are needed.

Ray Harden


  1. The newest pig spokesperson stated Iowa can support twice as many swine or 140 million porkers in CAFOs. That amount of manure would exceed all of the nation’s sewage plants’ capacity combined. But in Iowa animal sewage is called manure, thus making it sterile.


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