Clean Water v. Farm Profits At Heart Of Debate on New Fertilizer Rules

"When Marla Waseka converted the gracious Franciscan nunnery northwest of St. Cloud to a boutique lakeside resort and retreat in 2008, the nitrate levels in her well were low. A few years later they were so high she had to warn her guests not to drink the water. And when authorities warned they’d shut her down if it weren’t fixed, she spent $12,000 to drill a deeper well for clean water.

Now Minnesota is poised to roll out its first-ever strategy to protect drinking water from the farm fertilizers that carry nitrates — one of Minnesota’s worst pollution problems. What makes Waseka angry is that it won’t do nearly enough to clean up the water.

“This should be a much higher priority,” said Waseka, who has followed the state’s proposed plan since her well problem. “Incurring a cost is one thing. Not being able to continue in business is another.”

And though they have expressed support for the strategy in carefully couched comment letters, Minnesota’s top environmental officials agree with her. They say the state’s long-awaited nitrogen fertilizer management rule will place farmers’ yields above groundwater protection — and continue to put drinking water at risk."

Josephine Marcotty reports for the Minneapolis Star Tribune October 9, 2017.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/10/2017