MPCA Presents Progress on Sulfate Study

By KBJR News 1

November 27, 2012 Updated Nov 27, 2012 at 7:10 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
-- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is at the halfway point of a study that could change environmental standards concerning wild rice, and sulfate.

At a hearing Monday, officials discussed the progress made, and the steps that need to be taken to complete this study on time.

Sulfate is a chemical that grows naturally in the soil and water in Minnesota.

But, industry, such as mining and wastewater treatments plants can discharge this chemical in varying concentrations.

Minnesota's standard for sulfate levels in water used for the production of wild rice is currently at 10 milligrams per liter.

A rule adopted in 1973, with research conducted 40 years earlier.

"The overall effort is to enhance our understanding of the effects of sulfates on wild rice to further inform the standards evaluation," said Shannon Lotthammer with the MPCA.

Studies have shown that high sulfate levels can hurt the growth of wild rice, a resource that's imbedded in the states culture and economy.

"It's not the sulfate directly; it's the conversion of sulfate to sulfide, and the presence of sulfide in lake and stream sentiments," said Lotthammer.

That's why the state is re-evaluating the sulfate standard, using appropriated money to research and study sulfate levels, and their effect on wild rice.

"That information is now coming in from the lab that will be analyzed over the next few months to see what kinds of relationships are present."

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, while acknowledging the progress made so far, is not impressed with the lack of a solid scientific method to create a new standard.

"I cannot say today we know there is going to be scientifically, adequate, justifiable research that's going to be done," said Mike Robertson with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

But, the MCPA says their methodology is coming along, and they will have reports for the deadline, late next year.

The MPCA was provided 1.5 Million Dollars in 2011 to conduct the study.