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Massive fish kill: Nishnabotna River, Iowa fertilizer spill

Updated: Mar 28

UPDATE (03/27/2024) - An estimated 750,000 fish died in this fertilizer spill, according to an article from Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Unfortunately, it isn't the first or the last fish kill we will hear about in Iowa.

Over the weekend of March 16-18, a valve was left open at the NEW Cooperative facility in Red Oak, Iowa, releasing 265,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer which made its way into the East Nishnabotna River and proceeded to kill fish for dozens of miles throughout the drainage. Along with killing fish, other invertebrates, amphibians, and small reptiles have been killed as well.

While this is a major, massive spill that will have impacts on the local ecosystem for awhile, Iowa is no stranger to excessive nitrates in its waters. When fertilizers from its endless corn fields are washed off the fields in rain storms, these nitrates enter local streams and cause all kinds of issues for water quality and wildlife. In fact, many Iowans end up drinking water that has excessive nitrates.

Unfortunately, the big agriculture companies will do whatever it takes to keep making more and more money, and this is at the expense of water quality in Iowa. Iowans need to speak up to demand clean water. Over half of Iowa's waterbodies are considered "impaired", which is supposed to be a problem that is being fixed. SPOILER ALERT: the problem isn't being fixed.

Yes, a major spill in Red Oak has been devastating for that East Nishnabotna ecosystem. Hopefully, fines are coming and accountability is required. However, when will we see fines and accountability for the big agriculture businesses that put excess manure on their fields and allow standards for fertilizer to be far more than required to achieve crop growth?



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