Bio-reactor Constructed In Plymouth County To Help Improve Water Quality

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Wood chips are being poured into a bio-reactor pit that will help reduce nitrate run-off and help improve water quality.

(Remsen) — An effort to reduce nitrates from entering local water sources was being built Tuesday morning in the northeast corner of Plymouth County.
A bio-reactor is being constructed on the Jim Heidiesh farm. Kristi Silverthorn is a conservationist with the Plymouth County Soil and Water Conservation Service, and is the former director with the Deep Creek Water Quality Initiative Project. She explains what a bio-reactor is, and how it helps reduce nitrate run-off.

The bio-reactor is the first for Plymouth County. Silverthorn says one is located in Sioux County on the Dordt University farm, and others are located in Buena Vista County and Lyon County. Contractors were digging a trench and pit Tuesday morning, and Silverthorn explains the bio-reactor’s appearance when finished.

Sioux County retired soil and water conservationist, Greg Marek, says the wood chips act as a filtration system to help reduce nitrates and offer better water quality.

Marek says the bio-reactor will need to have a change of wood chips every few years in order for it to continue to reduce nitrates.

The Deep Creek Water Quality Initiative was appropriated $500 thousand dollars three years ago. Officials believe the legislature will again approve additional funding for the project, but that has yet to be determined. Silverthorn says the bio-reactor project was entirely funded through state and federal grants.

Jim Heidesch is the landowner of which the bio-reactor is located near Shamrock Avenue and county road C-16. He says he wanted to do what he could to help improve the water quality of Deep Creek and the Remsen water supply.

Heidesch believes other farmers and landowners will be interested in learning more about the benefits of bio-reactors and how they help reduce run-off nitrates and improve water quality. Marek says bio-reactors are just one way
to help reduce nitrates. He says other conservation methods that have been in practice around Plymouth County and northwest Iowa, that not only help protect the water quality, but also reduce soil erosion include: terraces, buffer filter strips, no-tillage, and grass waterways. Another method is the planting of cover crops consisting of oats, rye, or even radishes.

Farmers and land-owners can implement water quality initiatives and are encouraged to utilize cost-share funding that’s available through the county conservation district office, and with state and federal funding.