Governor’s Awards honor environmental leaders

Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Twenty-one Iowa organizations and businesses will receive Environmental Excellence awards from Gov. Terry E. Branstad this June. The awards are the premier environmental honors in Iowa.

“It is always rewarding to showcase and celebrate the innovation Iowans exhibit in creating new jobs and protecting our natural resources,” said Gov. Branstad.

In addition to rewarding important efforts to improve Iowa’s natural resources, Gov. Branstad noted that highlighting success stories benefits other businesses and organizations in the state.

Innovation is one of the key components needed to reach important state goals of creating 200,000 new jobs, increasing personal income by 25 percent in the state and promoting Iowa’s Healthiest State initiative, Branstad said.

The winners include:

• Special Recognition in Water Quality: Plymouth County Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Le Mars: The Plymouth County Chapter of Pheasants Forever provided $15,000 in seed, labor and equipment for an innovative way to treat the city of Remsen’s drinking water. For years, the nitrate levels in the water had been increasing; the water from eight wells on 90-acres of farmland needed to be blended before being safe to drink. Remsen had three choices: purchase drinking water from an outside source, build a multi-million dollar filtration plant or take a risk and try planting native prairie on the well land to naturally treat the water. Remsen received grants and low-interest loans to purchase the land, and Pheasants Forever handled the planting of native grasses. Since the planting in 2009, the community has seen a decrease in the nitrate levels and the water is now safe to drink without being blended. The site is also being used as an outdoor classroom and the community can use the mowed walking paths to view the grasses, wildflowers, songbirds and other prairie animals. No other community in the state or nation has used this solution to treat groundwater and the land will now remain a native prairie.

• Special Recognition in Waste Management: City of Le Mars, Van’s Sanitation & Recycling and Plymouth County Solid Waste Agency, Le Mars. The City of Le Mars, the Plymouth County Solid Waste Agency and Van’s Sanitation & Recycling have partnered together with the goal of making Le Mars the recycling capital of Iowa. Residential curb-side recycling is currently available in Le Mars and other Plymouth County communities, including Westfield.

In 2012, the Le Mars city council voted to require every commercial business to recycle. Van’s was already providing dumpsters for cardboard to businesses across the county; in addition, 850 totes were purchased for area businesses. The Plymouth County Solid Waste Agency converted a former landfill into a one-stop construction and demolition recycling center, with appliances, electronics and other recyclables able to be dropped-off. Wood is sold to an ethanol plant, concrete is ground and used on roads, shingles are ground and reused for road projects and metals are separated and sold for scrap. Van’s purchases recyclables, then bales and markets the materials. The collaboration and leadership by the three entities has resulted in the county exceeding the 25 percent diversion goal by nearly 4 percent and can serve as a model to other planning areas.

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