Discussions on the Iron Range on the Impacts of Wild Rice Water Quality Standards

Minnesota is currently the only state with a sulfate water quality discharge standard

The Iron Ore Alliance on Wednesday brought together more than 45 Iron Range leaders interested in Minnesota’s wild rice water quality standard to work toward a resolution based on science. Federal and state lawmakers were also in attendance, including Congressman Rick Nolan, State Senator David Tomassoni, and State Representative Rob Ecklund.

Those who attended received an update on research and an overview of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) rule-making process and timeline.

A 43-year-old rule in Minnesota limits how much sulfate can be discharged into wild rice waters. The current standard of 10 milligrams per liter is not consistently enforced.

In 1973, Minnesota adopted a wild rice sulfate standard, after studies showed that wild rice was found primarily in low sulfate waters, and is currently the only state to adopt such a standard.

Attendees were also provided with information about the potential costs to municipalities and industry on the Iron Range of complying with a sulfate water quality discharge standard.

Information presented revealed that installing and operating new treatment technologies to achieve the MPCA’s current water quality standard could cost individual cities millions of dollars. Individual households may also be required to pay hundreds of dollars per year in new wastewater treatment fees.

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