Brief: Counties Shouldn’t Be Forced To Pay Nitrate Damages

Date posted - March 3, 2016

Des Moines, Iowa — Three northwest Iowa counties have filed a brief with the Iowa Supreme Court in which they contend that they can’t be forced to pay the damages the Des Moines Water Works has requested.

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stock photo

The utility alleges that Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties should pay damages because the utility says the counties have not stopped nitrates from entering the Racoon River, a key source of drinking water. And Des Moines water customers have had to pay to have the chemical removed.

Attorneys for the counties’ drainage districts have “noted this Court’s repeated holdings that a ‘drainage district could not be subject to a money judgment in tort under any state of facts.'”

They also said that when U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett asked the Iowa Supreme Court to give their opinion on four key questions in the case, that the “improper attempt to use certified questions to alter Iowa law should be rejected,” since they say the issues presented had already been decided by over a century of precedent and that referral was unnecessary.

The counties also claim since they have limited power to control nitrate pollution, they shouldn’t be responsible for financial damage.

The trial is set to begin on August 8.

Several counties including some here in our part of northwest Iowa have supported the counties named in the suit, both monetarily and in spirit, noting that the same thing could happen here.

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