Letter: Editorial lacked clarity about Iowa rivers

I applaud The Gazette’s May 22 editorial “Iowa’s Watershed Moment” as it is always good to see environmental issues, which impact us all as a state, brought to the forefront of political discourse.

Yet, I was dismayed at the lack of clarity as to why Iowa rivers need to be cleaned up and false obstacles in the upcoming debate.

At the heart of the discourse should be two items: Public health and fair taxation. Readers need to be aware of the two specific health problems facing Iowa rivers and lakes. First, due to high levels of manure usage and nitrates, Iowa is at risk for algae blooms. As noted elsewhere, human exposure to these blooms can include “ ... symptoms including skin rashes, gastrointestinal issues and, in high doses, liver failure.” Secondly, high nitrate levels have been linked to blue baby syndrome.

The agricultural community will argue that a tax on Iowa farmers using manure and nitrate-rich fertilizer will kill farms. Yet the cost of cleaning this water has to come from somewhere, and currently, in the case of Des Moines, everyone is footing the bill. Des Moines Water Works has spent nearly $4 million on a system to remove nitrates that costs Des Moines $4,000 a day.

To argue that a tax on farmers will kill jobs while failing to acknowledge the taxation on everyday Iowa citizens also will kill jobs is irresponsible.

Nicholas Marn

Iowa City

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