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NEWS 1.17.22

Sioux City NAACP

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Iowa with hospitalizations down slightly since the last report issued by the state on Friday.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports an average of 5,200 positive tests per day with a positivity rate of 24.3%. That is an increase of more than 1%. Woodbury County’s level remained unchanged at 29%. Statewide there are 45 fewer patients, for almost 950 being cared for with the virus. Almost 80% are unvaccinated.

Iowa’s Senator Minority Leader Zach Wahls, a Democrat from Iowa City, says he contracted COVID-19. He credits a short period of significant symptoms on being vaccinated and boosted.

A Republican state senator and former speaker of the Legislature is challenging Congressman Jeff Fortenberry who is facing federal charges as he runs for re-election. State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk announced Sunday that he will challenge Fortenberry in the state’s First Congressional District. Flood will face off against Fortenberry, who has held the seat since 2005, in the May primary. Fortenberry has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he misled federal authorities who were investigating an illegal donation to his campaign from a foreign national in 2016. Fortenberry was already facing a challenge from Democratic State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks.

Story from the Iowa Capital Dispatch:

There are small amounts of so-called “forever chemicals” in Sioux City’s treated drinking water, and the likely source of contamination is an Iowa Air National Guard base. That’s according to the city’s utilities director, Brad Puetz.

An analysis of groundwater in the area about three years ago revealed perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly called PFAS — in concentrations that were more than 100 times a health safety threshold set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In December, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources tested a city well about a mile and a half west of that base and found two prominent PFAS in a total concentration of 9.1 parts per trillion in the groundwater.

The federal health advisory is 70 parts per trillion. Tests at the base showed concentrations of up to 8,610 parts per trillion.

“We’re pretty confident the source is the firefighting foam from the airbase,” Puetz said.

PFAS have been used in non-stick and stain-resistant products and firefighting foams, among others. Research has shown they can cause cancers in people who ingest them, and that they persist indefinitely in the environment.

DNR tests of finished drinking water from one of the city’s two treatment plants found PFAS in a slightly higher concentration than in the untreated water.

The Southbridge Regional Water Treatment Plant accounts for about a quarter of the city’s total water capacity, and it only draws water from the contaminated well, Puetz said. The plant is located on the city’s south side, but its water commingles with treated water from the other plant.

The city will test its drinking water every three months to be sure the rate of contamination doesn’t increase. Water at the other treatment plant had no detectable amounts of PFAS.

“I think we’ve got a good handle on what’s there and what needs to be dealt with,” Puetz said.

The tests in Sioux City were part of statewide sampling the DNR is using to determine the prevalence of PFAS in drinking water. Contaminations have also been found in Ames, Rock Valley and West Des Moines.

Tom Van Maanen, city administrator for Rock Valley, said the city’s shallow wells were likely contaminated by the nearby Rock River. A firefighter training area is thought to be the contamination source in Ames, and West Des Moines Water Works officials have not indicated a suspected source.

Sioux City has also had trouble with its wastewater in recent years. The DNR filed suit this month against the city and alleged it has repeatedly failed to ensure it isn’t discharging excessive amounts of harmful bacteria and treatment chemicals into the Missouri River.

MADISON, Neb. (AP) — A driver has died in a rollover crash near Madison in northeastern Nebraska. Madison County Sheriff Todd Volk says in a news release that the crash happened around 8:30 Sunday night when a car went off the road near a rural intersection northwest of Madison and rolled. Volk says the driver, 37-year-old Shane Melcher of Meadow Grove, was thrown from the car and died at the scene. A 37-year-old woman who was a passenger in the car was flown from the scene in a medical helicopter to a hospital. The sheriff's office is investigating the cause of the crash.

JEFFERSON, Iowa (AP) — West-central Iowa officials say one of two teenagers badly burned in a New Year's Day cabin fire has died of his injuries. Greene County Sheriff Jack Williams said Sunday that 15-year-old Harley McDonald had died in an Iowa City burn unit. Television station KCCI reported that McDonald and 14-year-old Lucas Oakes were in the cabin located less than a mile north of McMahon State Wildlife Management Area when it burned in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. Both were taken to the Iowa City hospital, and Oakes was released on Jan. 8. Investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire, but Williams has previously said officials believe a wood-burning stove in the cabin may have started the blaze.

Sioux City community members hope to promote solidarity and equity through song tonight.

In the annual Martin Luther King Jr. day tradition, a choir will sing songs of healing to honor Dr. King’s legacy. NAACP local chapter vice president Treyla Lee says the event is about uniting to recognize the fight for equality.

She says the music itself shows what the community can do when it comes together.

 “The choir is a great example of everyone having what fits them. But all having a voice to carry out one note.”

The event will also feature speakers, dancing, and a call for action for people to exercise their right to vote. Lee says she wants people to leave the church knowing their voice is important.

During the event, the NAACP of Sioux City plans to donate artwork of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Sioux City Public Museum by local artist Paul Chelstad.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has disbanded an alumni advisory committee that was created after a 2020 investigation found evidence of racial bias against Black players in his program and bullying behavior by some of his assistants. The Gazette reports that Ferentz’s decision to end the committee came shortly after its leader, former offensive lineman David Porter, suggested it was time for Iowa to part ways with Ferentz. But Ferentz said he had decided to overhaul the committee last fall before Porter made his comment to other committee members in a text message.

The nation’s longest-tenured head football coach plans to stick around even longer as University of Iowa officials said they were extending Kirk Ferentz’s contract through the 2029 season. Iowa on Friday announced the four-year extension that followed a 10-4 record in 2021. It was Ferentz’s 23rd season at Iowa. The university said Ferentz would be paid $7 million a year. That includes a $500,000 base plus $5.5 million in supplemental compensation and a $1 million “longevity bonus.” The contract will expire on Jan. 31, 2030. Ferentz has 178 career wins, placing him first for victories at Iowa and fourth in Big Ten Conference history. This year’s season ended in a 20-17 loss to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.

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