Conservation Minnesota

Nitrates: Not Just the Way It Is

Drinking WaterWhen it comes to our drinking water, our family’s safety, and the development of our children: “Just the way it
is,” is not an acceptable answer. It’s not an answer that I’m willing to accept and it’s one that families struggling with high nitrate levels in their wells won’t be able to accept either. I’ve heard stories in Hastings and throughout Dakota County from folks who’ve had their private wells tested and found that their water has exceeded the federal safe drinking standards for nitrates. Recently, some articles have been published talking about Washington County wells being tainted by high nitrate levels. This is no longer a problem that just affects agricultural communities in greater Minnesota but now suburban and urban communities. Should we just suck it up and drink bottled water for the rest of our lives and say to ourselves, “this is just the way it is”?

“Just the way it is”, is a quote that has been thrown around since the discussion started on Governor Dayton’s Buffer Initiative which was proposed in January of 2015 and signed into law during the 2015 legislative session. The Buffer Initiative called for 50 foot vegetative buffers around lakes, ditches, rivers, and streams throughout greater Minnesota in order to help tackle our states water quality issues. The initiative was a response from Gov. Dayton to the recent MPCA water quality study that was conducted throughout the Missouri River Basin Watershed in Southwest Minnesota. The study found that out of 98 streams and rivers tested only three were adequate for aquatic life or fishing.

The new found evidence that wells in suburban areas are also threatened by nitrates really changes the perception that this is a small town issue. This is a Minnesota issue that affects all of us. Water is not stagnant, it does not stay in one place, and it’s an excellent carrier of pollutants.

You may ask – If nitrates are already in the groundwater, what can I do? Well, not all hope is lost. We need to remain vigilant toward the future to make sure that we are addressing the problem adequately and head on. We need to talk to our state legislators and make them understand that “just the way it is” is something that we will not accept from our state leaders when it comes to the contamination of our most precious resource. They need to be proud champions of water quality and solutions such as the Buffer Initiative and providing the funding necessary to continue to monitor our water bodies and wells. Minnesota has a long and proud history of coming together to solve some of our biggest conservation issues and we need to have our voices heard. We need to continue to be vocal about this and make sure that our leaders work on finding a solution – not just a quick fix.

For more information about why nitrates in drinking water are of such concern, please visit this link to the EPA’s nitrate information page.

About Avery Hildebrand

Avery Hildebrand

Born in Minnesota, Hildebrand earned his degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. He has an extensive background in canvassing and organizing. An avid fisherman, who once worked as an aquatic invasive species watercraft inspector, his perfect day in Minnesota includes good friends and fishing, which pairs nicely with his favorite place in the state, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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