IEC and ELPC Oppose MidAmerican Plan to Dump Toxins in Missouri River

posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 in Council News

April 12, 2023 — Des Moines, IA — The Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center submitted comments to MidAmerican Energy today opposing a plan for the utility to dump toxic coal ash leachate into the Missouri River. The leachate, runoff that collects at the bottom of the site’s coal ash landfill, contains dozens of toxic pollutants, including mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide, and other toxic heavy metals.

On March 15, MidAmerican issued a public notice in the local newspaper seeking comment on its proposal to discharge the leachate into the Missouri River. MidAmerican’s analysis identified potential treatment options, but proposes not to use any of them, opting instead for the simpler and cheaper process of dumping into the river.

"MidAmerican is proposing to discharge a range of heavy metals, like mercury, that it has the ability to treat," said Steve Guyer, IEC Energy Policy Manager. "EPA is telling utilities to treat the leachate, not send it directly to the river."

While MidAmerican states that the toxins in the leachate are within EPA requirements, no amount of mercury or lead is safe for consumption. These toxic metals also bioaccumulate, meaning wildlife and humans that are exposed accumulate the toxins in their tissue over time.

IEC and ELPC’s comments highlight that the analysis completely failed to justify degrading the Missouri River, which is required by the Clean Water Act. It also ignored an EPA rulemaking announced before MidAmerican’s plan went on public notice, which will require coal plants to fully treat leachate before discharge in the very near future.

"MidAmerican’s analysis is inconsistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and state law. It must go back to the drawing board and provide treatment for the coal ash leachate," said Josh Mandelbaum, ELPC Senior Attorney.

The comments are in response to an "antidegradation alternatives analysis," required under federal and state law before an increase in permitted pollution can occur. Because MidAmerican is not presently discharging the leachate, it must seek public comments, then request permission from DNR for the discharge.

"The Missouri River is already damaged from agricultural pollution and other discharges. We don’t need to add mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide, and other toxic metals to the mix and degrade this river, which some people rely on for drinking water, even further," said Alicia Vasto, IEC Water and Land Stewardship Director.

Comments are due by Friday, April 14. The public is encouraged to submit comments via IEC’s website at

  1. clean energy
  2. clean water
  3. clean water act
  4. coal
  5. dnr
  6. drinking water
  7. public health
  8. water quality
  9. water recreation
  10. water safety