Questions, opposition for water quality rules change at Iowa DNR hearing

'Standard should not be lowered'

Iowa DNR logo
Iowa DNR logo

WASHINGTON, Iowa — The majority of community members who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday in Washington said they want Iowa to continue to use two ways of measuring bacteria in Iowa’s recreational waters.

“The standard should not be lowered in any way, shape or form,” said John Miller of Fairfield, one of 16 people who attended the first of three public hearings this week over a proposed rules change by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The agency now uses two ways to measure E. coli bacteria.

One is the single sample maximum, which is 235 organisms per 100 milliliters of water for primary recreational waters, such as lakes used for swimming, and 2,880 organisms per 100 milliliters for secondary recreation waters.

The second criterion is a geometric mean, which is the average level of E. coli in four samples on different days that can’t surpass 126 organisms per 100 milliliters.

If water samples show the geometric mean is too high, or more than 10 percent of samples exceed the single sample maximum, the DNR lists the water body segment on the impaired waters list required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The DNR’s water quality assessment division has proposed eliminating the single sample maximum, which DNR officials called “overly stringent” and “not an appropriate measure for water quality assessment and permitting purposes.”

Single sample maximum still would be used in Iowa’s beach monitoring program.

Critics of the rule change say it was intended to shrink the impaired waters list, leaving some polluted waters without restoration plans.


Iowa’s 2016 draft impaired waters list, released April 14, included 750 bodies of water with 1,096 impairments, up slightly from 736 lakes, rivers and streams with 1,062 impairments on the final list for 2014. One of every two water bodies tested for the 2016 list was impaired.

“I understand the bottom line, after all these changes, we’ll have a smaller list of impaired waters,” Gerry Hanson, of Holbrook, said at Tuesday’s hearing.

Roger Bruner, supervisor of the DNR’s water quality assessment section, told the group it would cause a 3 percent reduction in the list.

Several people at the hearing said they were confused by the proposed change.

Jon Koch, an officer with the Iowa Water and Environmental Association, said he thinks the DNR should do more to educate the public. “There needs to be more explanation of what is being done. There are more questions here than comments today.”

There are public hearings this week in Urbandale and Harlan, and comments may be submitted online at

l Comments: (319) 339-3157;



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