Is your water safe to drink? Many rural residents in Mitchell County have tested their well water and found high levels of nitrates and other agricultural contaminants in their water. They have had to either drill deeper wells or invest in expensive treatment systems for their drinking water.

Ground water is not the only concern. Last fall before crops were harvested, a concerned rural resident took water samples from streams within one-half mile of a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). The samples were sent to a professional lab and tested for e-coli. The results were shocking, ranging from a high of 1553 to a count of 1. Any count of 1 or higher is considered contaminated. The streams included Burr Oak, Spring Creek, and the Pot Holes. A water body is considered unsafe for humans to use for recreation if the e-coli count is over 47. Of nine samples, five were over 47.

There are currently 320,000 hogs, 25,000 cattle, and more than 500,000 poultry in Mitchell County producing more than 1,000,000 tons of manure every year. We cannot deny the impact this much manure is having on our ground and surface water. Our Board of Supervisors want to market our county as a tourist destination for recreation on our rivers and fishing in our streams. If the water makes people sick, who would want to come here for recreations?

There are currently two Iowa Senate bills and two Iowa House bills that could help. SF2008 and HF2083 call for a moratorium on new construction or expansion of existing CAFOs. SF 2006 and HF456 would provide more local control by the Board of Supervisors over siting of new confinements.

Let your representatives know you support these bills. Come to the Mitchell County Legislative Forum on February 24 at 9:00 a.m. at the Osage Public Safety Center, 432 Main St. in Osage.

If you can’t come to the forum, contact your representatives and ask them to support these bills. Senator Waylon Brown is vice chair of the Agriculture Committee and you may contact him at 641-590-0610 or Representative Jane Bloomingdale may be contacted at 515-281-3221 or