Top Stories

Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

EPA failed to disclose coal ash-related health risks

By Jason Hancock | 05.07.09 | 2:43 pm

People who live near sites used to store ash or sludge from coal-fired power plants have a one in 50 chance of developing cancer, according to a just released government report kept from the public for seven years by the Bush Administration.

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The Waterloo South Quarry, one of four unlined, unmonitored sites around the state where waivers were issued allowing coal ash disposal. Those using the site include John Deere, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. (Photo courtesy of Plains Justice)

The data, compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 and released Thursday by the watchdog groups Earth Justice and the Environmental Integrity Project, suggests that environmental contamination from the storage sites could last for a century or longer.

The Iowa Independent reported in March that there are four disposal sites across Iowa where coal ash is being stored in unmonitored and unlined containment facilities, raising concerns that dangerous materials in the ash could poison groundwater supplies, damage ecosystems and jeopardize human health.

The largely unregulated sites include three abandoned quarries in Cedar Rapids, Goose Lake and Waterloo and one mine in Buffalo. Each received a waiver from the Department of Natural Resources allowing them to accept coal ash as fill in the sites’ reclamation process.

Coal ash, also known as fly ash, is the waste produced by burning coal. The nation’s power plants produce enough ash to fill 1 million railroad cars a year, according to a 2006 report by the National Research Council. Coal-burning power plants in Iowa produce 20,000 to 30,000 tons of coal ash every year. The Hawkeye State also imports coal ash from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

The ash contains high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and boron, each of which has been known to cause cancer, neurological and development problems, and other illnesses. Yet for three decades, rules governing coal ash have been left up to the states, creating a patchwork of differing regulations with questionable effectiveness.

Environmental groups want the state to more strictly regulate these types of sites by requiring state-of-the-art liners and multiple monitors to safeguard human health and the environment.

The state DNR has been working for more than a year on draft rules to better regulate these disposal sites. But opposition from site owners and coal-burning businesses, along with uncertainty about what regulations the federal government may eventually impose, have caused the effort to stall. The Obama administration’s EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, said her agency will begin drafting new regulations for coal ash, likely to be released by the end of 2009. But environmentalists fear the new regulations won’t address the problem of unlined disposal sites.

In an interview with the Iowa Independent in March, Chad Stobbe, the DNR’s lead staffer on coal ash issues, said because there are currently no monitoring wells at these disposal sites to ensure groundwater is not being contaminated, he cannot say definitively that some sort of contamination isn’t taking place.

Coal ash also poses a serious danger to aquatic wildlife and ecosystems, the report said. One contaminant – boron – can be expected to leach into the environment at levels 2,000 times the threshold generally considered safe for aquatic life.

A 2007 study of coal-ash disposal rules in Iowa by Plains Justice, a Cedar Rapids-based public interest environmental law center, found that including the four “benificial use” sites and sanitary landfills, Iowa has a total of 22 coal ash disposal sites around the state. There are also several “temporary impoundments” that the group has not tracked.

Kelly Fuller, Plains Justices’ communications director, said an important thing to remember is that even if formerly unlined sites have now been lined, unless extensive cleanups took place “there could still be contamination problems.”

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Comments

  • criticalthinking

    After discovering how toxic coal is we don’t even need to consider carbon capture and storage.

    Since WWII not one congressperson has figured out how to safely store nuclear waste and now legislators want us to trust them with storing CO2.

    It is entirely too risky storing captured CO2. Leakage is far too dangerous whether stored in its gaseous state in various deep geological formations (including saline formations and exhausted gas fields), liquid storage in the ocean, or solid storage by reaction of CO2 with metal oxides to produce carbonates.

    We have the intellect, creativity, technology and means of implementation to redefine our energy grid with renewable energy.

    What we don’t have are congresspersons willing to separate themselves from fossil fuel money and make the required investments in a healthy future–nor the public outrage to force them to at least feign a change in their behavior.

  • tmullins

    Appalachia can't stand anymore of The Bush Legacy of progress and prosperity, we are being bombed, blasted and bulldozed right into 3rd world America. Wise County, Virginia is turning into a toxic moonscape, our land is destroyed not to mention the landscape, our water is being polluted with heavy metals and disease, but as long as the politician and the profit machine are raking it in, people and their communities don't matter much. http://www.wisecountyissues.com/?p=138 They can say all they want about Bush keeing US safe from another terrorist attack on the homeland, but what he's allowed to be done here is TOXIC TERRORISM.

  • tmullins

    Appalachia can't stand anymore of The Bush Legacy of progress and prosperity, we are being bombed, blasted and bulldozed right into 3rd world America. Wise County, Virginia is turning into a toxic moonscape, our land is destroyed not to mention the landscape, our water is being polluted with heavy metals and disease, but as long as the politician and the profit machine are raking it in, people and their communities don't matter much. http://www.wisecountyissues.com/?p=138 They can say all they want about Bush keeing US safe from another terrorist attack on the homeland, but what he's allowed to be done here is TOXIC TERRORISM.

  • tmullins

    Appalachia can't stand anymore of The Bush Legacy of progress and prosperity, we are being bombed, blasted and bulldozed right into 3rd world America. Wise County, Virginia is turning into a toxic moonscape, our land is destroyed not to mention the landscape, our water is being polluted with heavy metals and disease, but as long as the politician and the profit machine are raking it in, people and their communities don't matter much. http://www.wisecountyissues.com/?p=138 They can say all they want about Bush keeing US safe from another terrorist attack on the homeland, but what he's allowed to be done here is TOXIC TERRORISM.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cindy-Lee-Davis/1551985034 Cindy Lee Davis

    please read and know they want to expand little blue. This does not sound good for any of us.

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