A company condemned for discharging wastewater near a source of drinking water

A business in Ottumwa will pay $5,500 to dump thousands of gallons of municipal sewage in a rural area with a drain that leads directly to underground pipes. The sewage spilled into a ditch and creek that feeds the Des Moines River, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR received a report in July 2021 that a ditch about six miles northwest of Ottumwa had black liquid running through it. MNR investigators traced the contamination to the nearby location of Ecosystems, Inc., a company that hauls sewage and sludge from other businesses and municipalities and applies it to farmland.

Jeffrey Klodt, who manages Ecosystems, said six tractor-trailer trucks filled with partially treated sewage from the town of Osceola were transported to the property that day, according to a recent DNR administrative order.

These trucks had the capacity to haul a total of about 48,000 gallons of sewage, but DNR was unable to determine how much was discharged, said Jeffrey Thomann, an environmental scientist. of the DNR who investigated the rejection. Four other trucks loaded with sewage were on their way to the property when Thomann arrived and intervened.

“I have no idea why it happened,” Thomann said of the sewage spill. “One of them had mentioned there was a hairball on the end of the valve, and they were trying to clean the valve.”

He said no one admitted to deliberately dumping the sewage and no one alerted the DNR to the discharge until someone saw the black liquid in the ditch. Klodt could not be reached to comment on this article.

The sewage went into South Avery Creek, which empties into the Des Moines River upstream from where Ottumwa draws drinking water from the river for its 25,500 residents. Thomann said sewage has no known effects on this drinking water. The area had been inundated with about 5 inches of rain the night before the spill, so the creek was full of stormwater that was diluting the sewage, he said. There was no apparent fish kill caused by the discharge.

Ecosystems agreed to pay a $5,500 fine to fix the problem, the DNR order said.

“Disposing of sewage sludge in violation of (Iowa law) has provided significant economic benefits by saving time, labor, fuel, and equipment use/expenses. equipment,” the order reads.

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