Category Archives: Investigative Work

Closing the Gap: Iowa’s Effort to Recycle is Hampered by a System That Favors Dumping


More than half of what Iowans dump into landfills could have been recycled or composted. In some areas, that amount is as high as 75 percent, landfill operators said.

An IowaWatch investigation revealed that the gap between tons dumped into the ground and tons recycled at Iowa’s top five waste agencies is widening.

And unless something changes, it’s set to stay that way because of a lack of available recycling programs, the way recycling and landfill programs are funded by the state, and poor record keeping.

Read the full report here.


Iowa’s Texting-While-Driving Ban Not Reducing Crashes, Hard To Enforce


Iowa’s law banning texting while driving is failing to reduce road crashes, and officers seldom enforce it because of legal restrictions, an IowaWatch investigation shows.

Although texting-related crashes have been on the rise in recent years, Iowa convicted an average of only 2.5 drivers per county for texting last year, the investigation revealed.

Crash history reports from the Iowa Department of Transportation show that since the Iowa Legislature enacted it in July 2011, the law has done nothing to decrease cell-phone related crashes. Instead, the number of crashes has increased steadily.

The problem is worse than the statistics show because distracted driving often is not reported properly when a crash occurs.

In this investigation, IowaWatch examined state laws, traffic reports, studies and crash data for Iowa and other states and interviewed visual attention specialists, traffic safety officials, experts, statisticians, legislators and law enforcement officers.

“Texting while driving has become ubiquitous,” said Mark Lowe, director of the Iowa DOT’s Motor Vehicle Division.

Read the full report here. 

Matter of Seconds: Tougher Farm Safety Regulation Hard To Come By In Iowa


Iowa’s small farms are on their own when it comes to work safety, even though farmers suffer more fatal occupational injuries than any other kind of worker in the state.

Limited Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement and coverage favors large farms, leaving the rest on an honors system in which dangerous farm practices fly under the radar until a serious, and often fatal, injury occurs.

“We’re the number one ag state in the country and we’re not doing anything to protect the people who produce our food,” said Rich Gassman, safety director at Amana Farms

Read the full report here.