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MPCA Study Detects High Nitrate Levels

infoThe results of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's (MPCA) “Nitrogen in Surface Waters” study indicates elevated nitrate levels in several Minnesota streams, particularly in the southern part of the State. Nitrate in surface water can be toxic to fish and the aquatic life food chain. If left untreated, nitrate in drinking water is also potentially harmful to humans.

The MPCA study shows several Minnesota streams exceed the nitrate standards established to protect potential drinking water sources. According to the study, the primary source of nitrates - 72 percent - is from cropland agriculture. The remaining 28 percent is from other regulated and unregulated sources, such as wastewater treatment plants, forests, the atmosphere, septic systems, urban runoff, etc.

The MPCA study results are based on more than 50,000 stream samples from all over Minnesota. In the northern part of the State, nitrate levels are relatively low. However, in the south - particularly the south-central part of the State - nitrate levels are either high or very high. The MPCA says cropland in the Minnesota River, Missouri River, Cedar River, and Lower Mississippi River basins accounts for an estimated 89 to 95 percent of the total nitrate load detected during the study.

Although nitrates can be effectively removed by a variety of water treatment strategies, several programs are already in place to reduce the quantity of nitrates entering the State's surface waters, including the State-level Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program, and research for perennial biomass energy crops. To access the MPCA's full "Nitrogen in Surface Waters" report, click here.

 

 

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