Iowa Court Decision on Field Tiles
The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled drainage districts in the state cannot be sued for the cleanup of nitrates in drinking water. Justice Thomas Waterman authored the majority opinion, writing that policy deciding who pays for nitrate removal is the jurisdiction of Iowa lawmakers. This was a win for the drainage districts says University of Illinois Agricultural Policy Specialist Jonathan Coppess. However, he says the Clean Water Act implications of the suit, about whether or not field tiles are point sources that can be regulated, remains to be addressed.
“So the big question under the Clean Water Act, as I understand it, is the Des Moines Water Works is claiming that the agricultural stormwater exemption under the Clean Water Act does not apply to drainage districts. In this case, because once it comes through the pipes it becomes a point source.” – Jonathan Coppess
Again, the decision in the Iowa courts is that only lawmakers in the state can determine who pays for the cleanup of nitrates from drainage districts. It did not address issues related to whether or not field tiles should be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.