Des Moines Water Works Using ‘Emergency Storage’, Nitrate Levels Too High

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DES MOINES, Iowa — In order to keep drinking water safe, on Thursday Des Moines Water Works was forced to dip into it’s emergency storage water.

The reason, the same it’s been for several months, high nitrate levels in both the Racoon and Des Moines Rivers.

Water Works Chief Operating Officer says this pulling reserved resources is especially troubling.

“Normally we wouldn’t do it this time of year, normaly we would wait until the first of july, sometimes near the end of June,” said Ted Corrigan.

Only one of the company’s four reserves was tapped into. Corrigan said depending on much water will have to be used to due to nitrate related issues, it could make for an interesting summer.

” A little bit concerning. It all depends on how the year goes. How high the demand gets, “he said. “So, hopefully there will be plenty of water to suppy or peak needs.”

The EPA requires a level of 10 milligrams per liter or less of nitrates in water to be considered safe and drinkable. Both the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers have levels higher than 15 milligrams per liter.

Currently, Water Works is also using an expensive filtration system. It’s cost Water Works roughly $7,000 each day it’s in use. Most recently, it built a $400,000 intake system to help draw in pond water and store it. Corrigan said the holding ponds usually have a low level of nitrates in them.

Where do the nitrates go once removed?

Corrigan said the nitrates in the holding ponds on the Water Works grounds are consumed by algae then released into the air as a gas. However, nitrates that have gone through the filtration system are put back into the river. Water Works is currently looking for a different solution but said its options are all extremely costly.


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