Mobile home park fined for wastewater, well violations

By: - February 28, 2022 5:06 pm

Lock and Dam 11 in the Mississippi River at Dubuque. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A mobile home park near Dubuque that discharges wastewater into a small tributary of the nearby Mississippi River and has frequently exceeded contamination limits was fined $8,500 by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for numerous wastewater and water supply violations.

Knapp Mobile Home Court No. 4, on the north side of the city, failed to test its wastewater and submit the results to the state for more than two years, neglected to pay fees for its wastewater permits for three years, and failed to properly cap a former well through which groundwater could be directly contaminated, according to recent DNR orders that levied the fines.

Knapp has fewer than 20 mobile homes and treats wastewater from them with two septic tanks and a rock-filled filter, according to its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

DNR records show that its wastewater frequently exceeded state limits for ammonia, particulate matter, and microbes that consume oxygen and can asphyxiate aquatic life, from 2015 until testing apparently ceased in 2019. It’s unclear how those elevated contaminant levels affected the unnamed creek where the wastewater discharges. The Mississippi is about a half mile away.

DNR: Park must cap or rehab shallow well

As part of an agreement with the DNR, the mobile home park is required to resume regular testing, keep its contaminants within the state-mandated limits and work with the Iowa Rural Water Association to manage the upkeep and monitoring of its wastewater treatment.

It’s not yet known whether Knapp has begun testing its wastewater, said Matt Calvert, an environmental specialist for the DNR. The park’s first discharge monitoring report since the agreement is due March 10.

The DNR identified the park’s owner as Amy Knapp, who could not be reached to comment for this article.

In a separate DNR agreement, the mobile home park is required to properly cap its former well or rehabilitate it for use.

The shallow well was installed in 1977 and is 54 feet deep, according to DNR data. It hasn’t been used for drinking water for at least five years, and Knapp has failed to properly seal its opening.

In 2019, the DNR noted that the well’s former cap had been removed and someone shoved plastic sheeting into the top of the well.

“It can be a direct conduit to that aquifer if they don’t have a cap on the top of the well,” said John Warren, an environmental specialist for the DNR. “Any kind of contamination, things of that nature, can go right directly into the well.”

The DNR also noted that the mobile home park was using an unapproved chlorine pump to treat drinking water from its other well. Knapp repeatedly failed to file reports with the state about its testing of water for contaminants and chlorine concentrations.

The mobile home park has since lost enough tenants that it no longer qualifies as a public water supply and won’t have to report its test results to the state, Warren said. Public systems are defined to include those that have 15 service connections or serve 25 or more people for at least two months of the year.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.