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Sierra Club calls for hearings on water export proposal

By: - May 12, 2020 12:20 pm

Parched land. (Photo by Getty Images)

The Iowa Chapter of the nonprofit environmental group Sierra Club has called for a scientific study of a northeast Iowa sand mine’s proposal to export water from Iowa’s Jordan Aquifer wells.

Pattison Sand Co.’s proposal should also be subject to public hearings, Sierra Club maintained in a news release. The group called on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to consult with state geologist Keith Schilling, who has questioned Pattison’s proposal.

Pattison is located along the Mississippi River in Clayton. The company recently filed an new application to withdraw water from a proposed well on its property to be sent by rail car to drought-stricken western states. Pattison’s Des Moines attorney explained that the move to sell Iowa’s water out-of-state, which which would be a first for Iowa other than small rural water systems, is part of the company’s effort to recover from a downturn caused by weakness in the oil industry.

Sierra Club is among critics of the plan.

“Already, businesses and municipalities in Linn County, Johnson County, and Webster County face restrictions on water withdrawal from the aquifer,” Sierra Club noted in the release. “The level of the aquifer in those counties has dropped and steps have been implemented to ensure that future needs can be met. The documents submitted to the DNR show that the legality of this scheme is questionable. Pattison apparently recognizes this fact since they are requesting numerous variances from the legal requirements.

DNR spokesman Alex Murphy has said DNR, which has questioned if the proposal complies with state laws protecting the aquifer, would review the latest documents before deciding whether to proceed. If the state staff approves a proposed permit, a hearing would be held, Murphy said.

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