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Mining company files another request to export water from Iowa, this time for significantly less

Des Moines Register logo Des Moines Register 2/28/2020 Donnelle Eller, The Des Moines Register
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Pattison Sand Co. has submitted a new request to the state environmental agency to export water from Iowa, but the second time around, it's shrinking how much it wants to send to drought-stricken western states.

a train on a track with smoke coming out of it: Jim Kachel of Bagley, Wis., took this photo of the Pattison Sand Mine from his home in September 2015 after he heard a blast at the mine, which is across the Mississippi River near Clayton, Ia. © Jim Kachel/Special to IowaWatch Jim Kachel of Bagley, Wis., took this photo of the Pattison Sand Mine from his home in September 2015 after he heard a blast at the mine, which is across the Mississippi River near Clayton, Ia.

The company proposes sending about 34 million gallons annually, drawn from the 2.1 billion gallons it now has permission to take from the Jordan aquifer and Mississippi River.

In December, the company proposed exporting 2 billion gallons annually from the Jordan aquifer, a source of water for a half-million Iowans that already may be stressed.

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Pattison Sand, which mines silica sand outside Clayton for use in oil and gas fracking, submitted the new request to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday, asking to modify its water use permit.

MORE: Water wars ahead? As climate change intensifies, drought areas could look to raid Iowa's supplies

In the new application, Pattison said it's working with a rail company that would transport the water to drought-plagued cities in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and California.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Demand for water from the Jordan aquifer has climbed 9% from 2013 to 2018. Public water supplies also provide water to commercial businesses. © Contributed/Iowa Department of Natural Resources Demand for water from the Jordan aquifer has climbed 9% from 2013 to 2018. Public water supplies also provide water to commercial businesses.

"Our understanding is that it (water) will be hauled in rail cars from Clayton, Iowa, (and) dumped into a man-made or natural reservoir or river channel and then drawn upon as needed and processed further as needed," Pattison said in a letter that was attached to its permit request.

Lawmakers and water users say Pattison is working with an Oregon-based company called the Water Train. It describes itself as a "bottled water delivery service" that hauls 26,000 gallons per rail tank car to areas suffering from water shortages.

Pattison said the company it has contracted with has not told it specifically where the water would go or how it would be used, saying that information is proprietary. It sent the new proposal after withdrawing its first permit request Feb. 12.

The Iowa DNR had sent a letter to Pattison on Feb. 5, saying it intended to reject the company's request. The state said Pattison's proposal would have "a negative impact on the long-term availability of Iowa's water resources."

The scheme, the state agency said, did not "meet the legal standard that Iowa's public water 'be put to beneficial use ... in the interest of the people.'"

Pattison said in its new permit request Wednesday that diversifying the company's "business opportunities will ensure long-term stable employment for the area."

"Exporting water from the immediate area will have a significant impact on jobs we provide in Iowa as well as investment," the company said.

Pattison said it had an economic impact of $517.7 million in northeast Iowa in 2018, benefiting its employees, "their families and the many support businesses that sell labor and services to our company."

Before the Pattison proposal, the Iowa DNR said, it had never received a request to move so much water outside the state, although it has allowed rural water groups to serve communities in neighboring states.

Pattison's request comes as some Iowa cities and businesses face restrictions on drawing water from the Jordan aquifer, given concerns the natural underground reservoir is becoming stressed.

Some Iowa lawmakers said they want a review of the state's laws to weigh whether to tighten access to the aquifer.

Pattison said its new request would have no impact on the Jordan aquifer basin.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at deller@registermedia.com or 515-284-8457. 

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This article originally appeared on The Des Moines Register: Mining company files another request to export water from Iowa, this time for significantly less

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