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Intense rainfall in northern Iowa creating a number of environmental issues, park closures

  • 9/22/2016 4:15:00 PM
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DES MOINES – People with private drinking wells in flooded areas are being urged by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to use caution before using water from those sources.

Extensive rainfall and the resulting flooding over portions of north central and northeast Iowa have also caused a number of wastewater treatment facilities to overflow. Some of the facilities have had to bypass untreated wastewater to prevent backups into homes and businesses. In all, 38 different wastewater facilities had reported excess water-related issues by Thursday afternoon.

People are advised to use caution in and around flood waters primarily for their physical safety, but also because high waters can also carry debris, bacteria, and diluted wastewater.

Wells that get inundated by flood waters are exposed to contamination such as bacteria, viruses, farm chemicals and other potential pollutants. Wells that are located in low landscape positions or in areas near streams, rivers or waterways, are especially susceptible to flood waters and the associated water quality problems that flooding can cause.

“Even if your well wasn’t completely inundated with flood water, it could have been contaminated if one of your neighbors’ wells was flooded or there are structural problems that allowed flood water to enter,” said Bob Libra, state geologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Residents with wells in flood impacted areas are urged to use alternative sources of water until their water systems can be checked by an Iowa DNR certified well contractor.

“In most cases, shock chlorination will be effective in disinfecting the well, but disinfection will not provide protection from pesticides, heavy metals, fuels, oils and other types of non-biological contamination. We would urge people to contact their local county health department or the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa for more information if they believe these types of contaminants might be in their well,” said Libra.

Information for well owners impacted by the flood can be found at:

The heavy rains have also led to flooding and the closings of George Wyth State Park in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area and the Yellow River State Forest area in Allamakee County.

“We have all the campers out of George Wyth and thought it best to close the rest of the park since all the roads will be under water," said Scot Michelson, DNR state park district supervisor.

According to Michelson, all four campgrounds in Yellow River Forest will be closed through at least the weekend.

“We will have to assess any damages in both areas after the water recedes before deciding when we can reopen,” says Michelson.

The annual Ft Atkinson Rendezvous at Ft Atkinson State Preserve will still be held this weekend. 

People planning park visits in the near future, especially in areas with recent rain events, are reminded to check on current conditions before heading out. Closure information and alerts regarding Iowa state parks can be found at or by calling individual park offices.

The Elk Creek Pool “C” Wildlife Management Area boat ramp is not usable due to high water and the county road is closed accessing the boat ramp at Hanlontown Slough WPA, both in Worth County.