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Time is running out to comment on wild rice sulfate standards

EYE ON MINING -- The debate over wild rice sulfate standards is continuing across Minnesota.

On March 26th of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency partially approved and partially disapproved Minnesota’s 2020 Clean Water Act list of impaired waters.

The federal agency said part of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's list didn't meet the required standards set by the Clean Water Act.

Back in 1973, Minnesota adopted a sulfate standard to protect wild rice, based on studies showing wild rice was found primarily in low sulfate waters. The standard limits sulfate to 10 parts per million in wild rice waters, but that has since been debated.

According to the MPCA, while the science was correct then, more recent studies show how sulfate affects wild rice and they have concluded sulfate levels should be calculated for each wild rice water based on location-specific factors.

The EPA's list of additional waters includes several in our region.

Map courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Experts within the mining industry argue the outdated standard would add a major financial burden to the industry and local communities. Adding, the EPA is listing waters as impaired that have not gone through proper rulemaking to designate them as being wild rice waters.

Environmental groups argue the standard is needed to protect wild rice which serves many purposes including ecological value, cultural importance, and more.

The public comment period on this issue ends Wednesday, June 30.

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

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