News Feature | August 11, 2014

Are Farmers To Blame For Minnesota's Nitrate Problem?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Minnesota has a problem with nitrates, and state officials say the agriculture industry may not be doing enough to resolve it. 

"As Minnesota communities spend millions of dollars to remove nitrate contamination from their drinking water, state officials say it's time for farmers to do more to prevent the problem," the Associated Press reported

The Minnesota Agriculture Department is making plans to enforce new rules pushing farmers to be more careful about fertilizer leeching into groundwater. 

"We could restrict the timing, the source, the placement of those products. We could also require certain best management practices be put in place," Assistant Commissioner Matt Wohlman said, per the report. 

Groundwater is critical to the supply in Minnesota. 

"Groundwater is the state's main drinking water source, and the department estimates the aquifers beneath 10 percent of the state's land have nitrate problems," Minnesota Public Radio reported. 

Kris Sigford, water quality director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said regulators have not done enough to protect the state's groundwater. 

"Unfortunately, we have a bigger environmental problem than we had a quarter of a century ago," Sigford said, per the report. "It's time to move from purely voluntary to regulatory, to develop some practices that actually work and require them to be employed in certain regions of the state."

Along with agriculture regulators, the Minnesota health department also has a role in overseeing nitrates.

"Although low levels of nitrate are naturally present in water, higher levels are sometimes found. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has set a standard of 10 milligrams per liter for nitrate in drinking water. Private well owners should use this level as a safety guideline. Any residential well with a nitrate concentration of more than I milligram per liter should be tested annually," the department said

Check out Water Online's Nutrient Removal Solution Center

Image credit: "Minneapolis, Minnesota," Dougtone © 2011, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:


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