Minnesota Seeks Sulfate Research

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking scientists to propose studies assessing the effects of sulfate pollution on the state’s wild rice.

Minnesota Public Radio has the full story HERE.

The call for research is prompted by controversy over the current sulfate standard for waters where wild rice grows.  The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit last year claiming current regulations limiting sulfate emission to 10 milligrams per liter of water in wild rice growing waters are too restrictive and based on faulty science.

In July, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for scientific study of the issue, but suspended enforcement of the current standard.

Proponents for easing the standard say the current limits — which are more strict than the state’s drinking water standards for sulfates — would unduly limit expansion of iron mining operations in northeastern Minnesota and threaten the state’s emerging copper-nickel mining efforts.

Environmental advocates say the current limits, which have been in effect since 1973, are backed by a legitimate 60-year-old study which showed wild rice stands suffering at sulfates levels greater than 10 milligrams per liter. Wild rice stands are compromised when bacteria converts sulfates into hydrogen sulfide, which damages plants.

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