Wild Rice Sulfate Rules Studied, Suspended

A $1.5-million study will decided whether Minnesota water quality standards for wild rice waters need to be amended, but current limits on sulfates in water where wild rice grows won’t be enforced in the meantime.

The StarTribune has the story HERE.

The measure was part of the budget deal passed to end the recent state government shut-down. The study will examine whether the current law dating to the 1940s that limits sulfate discharges into wild rice-producing waters to 10 milligrams per liter is scientifically sound.

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. They claim the limits are not based on sound science.

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.

Environmental advocates are also decrying the suspension of enforcement of current standards while the study, which could take six years to complete, is on-going.

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