DNR: Southeast Polk stadium builders failed to control erosion

By: - May 9, 2022 2:37 pm

Significant rainfall in late 2021 washed unprotected soil from the new Southeast Polk stadium into Spring Creek. (Photo by Dennis Thielen/Iowa DNR)

Soil-laden stormwater runoff from the new Southeast Polk Community School District stadium site polluted a nearby creek last year because builders didn’t take enough precautions to limit erosion, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The school district agreed to pay a fine of $6,000 for the November 2021 violation, a DNR administrative order said.

“We were disappointed with the oversight at the beginning of the project, and the contractor involved did pay the fine,” said Dirk Halupnik, the district’s superintendent. “We are happy to report that the issue was corrected immediately upon notification last fall, and there have been no other incidents to date.”

A DNR environmental specialist noted murky water in Spring Creek while doing unrelated work in the area on Nov. 1 and traced the contamination to the site of the $22.7 million facility. It is expected to be ready for sports competitions next school year, the Des Moines Register has reported.

The creek flows from an area just west of Southeast Polk High School, 7945 N.E. University Ave., in Pleasant Hill, more than six miles south to the Des Moines River.

A stormwater basin near the new Southeast Polk stadium was not yet ready for a deluge of rainfall in late 2021. (Photo by Dennis Thielen/Iowa DNR)

Workers had connected drainage tiling from the stadium site into a system that empties into a nearby stormwater basin that was not fully functional, said Dennis Thielen, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR who investigated the violation.

Normally, the wide and shallow basin would rely on its plant life to slow the flow of stormwater, but it was mostly bare dirt at the time. Significant rainfall caused the runoff to flow quickly through the basin and into the creek, Thielen said.

“The amount that came through was so fast that it shot straight through the basin,” he said.

There was no evidence of dead fish in the creek.

Workers installed silt fencing and straw-filled tubes to prevent further erosion. A DNR report noted that erosion control in the other areas of the site was sufficient.

“We take our environmental stewardship responsibility seriously,” Halupnik said.

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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. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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