3 counties seeking partial dismissal of DMWW water lawsuit
SIOUX CITY (AP) – A lawyer representing three Iowa drainage districts has asked for a partial dismissal of a lawsuit against the counties filed by Des Moines Water Works.
The water utility company filed the lawsuit in March, claiming that the counties’ boards of supervisors are violating the federal Clean Water Act by not doing enough to reduce the amount of nitrates in water that runs into the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers and their tributaries.
The utility is seeking damages of more than $1.4 million that it said it has spent on increased filtration methods to remove the nitrates, which naturally occur in the soil, but are also traced to commercial fertilizers and livestock manure applied to fields.
Attorney Michael Reck argued in court Monday that eight counts filed against Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties should be dismissed because drainage districts can’t regulate the actions of landowners within their borders and cannot be held accountable for their actions.
“These entities can’t do anything about it. They can’t control the land. They do what they’re told to do. They are merely a vehicle set by the Legislature to drain land,” said Reck.
John Lande, an attorney representing Des Moines Water Works, said that the counties’ arguments for dismissal are based on outdated rulings and that they should be held liable for the pollution in the water drained from the land they cover.
“They believe they have the right to create the infrastructure to drain land, but no authority to clean up the pollution it creates. Des Moines Water Works says that is an irrational position,” Lande said.
U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett said he hopes to have a ruling on the issue by mid-January.
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