Iowans are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to treat their drinking water and pay for treatment of life-threatening health care issues caused by nitrate pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the state, according to a new report published today by the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC).
The report, The Costs of CAFOs: Impacts on Your Wallet and Your Health, reviews data in light of a cost-benefit analysis published for the first time by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the state agency that manages CAFO compliance in Iowa. The DNR compiled the cost-benefit analysis as part of the agency’s rule review mandated by Governor Kim Reynolds in January 2023.
“It’s eye-opening to see what CAFOs are really costing Iowans, beyond just operator costs or what the oversight costs the DNR. Every Iowan is paying in some way for these operations – some more than others," said Alicia Vasto, Water Program Director for IEC.
The report looked at data and reports on drinking water costs, finding that if nitrogen pollution rates do not change, Iowans will spend up to $333 million dollars on nitrogen removal in drinking water systems the next five years.
In addition to analyzing drinking water costs, economic impacts, and impacts to famers, the report also highlights healthcare costs for cancer treatment linked to nitrate exposure, as the Iowa Cancer Registry’s 2023 report found that the state ranked second in the nation for overall cancer incidence. That news comes as a growing body of research is indicating that the nitrate standard of 10 mg/l may not be protective enough of people’s health.