At the last Brown County Board of Commissioners' meeting, a resolution to support a Joint Powers Agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for the Township Nitrate-Nitrogen Testing Program died for lack of a second after Commissioner Scott Windschitl made a motion to approve the measure.
We learned of this development from an editorial in the New Ulm Journal, Why not OK free well testing?:
We don’t understand the objection the Brown County Board of Commissioners has to accepting a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) program that would provide free well testing for some township residents. On Tuesday the majority of the board refused to act to enter a joint powers agreement with the MDH for the Township Nitrate-Nitrogen Testing Program. Commissioner Scott Windschitl’s motion to accept the agreement died for lack of a second.
The program would give residents in Leavenworth, Mulligan and Stark Townships who live in higher vulnerability areas, based on soil type, to have their well water tested at no charge for nitrates and nitrogen contamination. . . .
They wondered what the state would do with the information. We guess the state would tell people who have bad water that they have bad water so they could get clean water.
Some commissioners worried that the testing wouldn’t tell where the nitrates came from, and that everyone would blame farmers. If someone has nitrates in their well water, do they really care about the source, or do they care about getting clean water for themselves and their children to drink?
We think turning down free well testing is like refusing to go to the doctor because he might tell you you’re sick. It’s not a wise policy.
Bluestem agrees, since nitrate/nitrogen poisoning is harmful for human babies and other living things.
There's more in the news section of the paper. In Commissioners OK 3.25 percent levy hike, Fritz Busch reports:
A resolution to support a Joint Powers Agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for the Township Nitrate-Nitrogen Testing Program died for lack of a second after Windschitl made a motion to approve the measure.
Commissioner Dean Simonsen said nitrate testing was a great idea but he wondered how the testing information would be used. Several other commissioners voiced opposition to possible state mandates coming after water testing.
“I can’t predict any mandates down the road,” John Knisley of the Brown County Planning & Zoning Office said. “Again, this is voluntary. Brown County doesn’t have to participate.”
Commissioner Windschitl said he was all in favor of the testing he said would benefit all landowners.
Commissioner Potter asked if the test data would become public.
Knisley said it was private right now.
Commissioner Berg said a Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) report said Best Management Practices would be followed if nitrate levels test high. In addition, the MDA nitrate results explanation read that water with nitrate levels above 10 mg/L is not safe for infants younger than 6 months of age, pregnant women may be at risk along with other people with specific metabolic conditions and boiling such water increases the nitrate concentration.
The MDA warned that infants consuming high amounts of nitrates may develop Blue Baby Syndrome (Methemoglobinemia), a potentially fatal disease. It first appears as blue coloration of the fingers, lips, ears, etc.
Commissioner Windschitl said nitrates could come from septic tanks and lawn fertilizer.
“The part that bothers me is you don’t know where the nitrates come from,” Commissioner Berg said.
New Ulm agriculture and environmental consultant Steve Commerford said virtually all domestic wells have site-specific contamination, most of it bacterial contamination in shallow wells.
“It’s very unfair to agriculture. It should not be blamed for this,” Commerford said. He urged commissioners not to move forward on nitrate testing.
Commerford is the Brown County Board member for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Busch continued:
Home Township farmer Greg Bartz thanked commissioners for not moving forward on the resolution.
The story continues:
Knisley said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) contacted his office about the voluntary program to test nitrates in well water in areas with coarse soil.
The program is an opportunity for rural residents in Leavenworth, Mulligan and Stark Townships that live in higher vulnerability ares (based on geomorphology) to have their well water tested at no charge. It is estimated that 336 households will have test kits available plus 34 more kits if needed.
Brown County would not have been financially responsible for any expenses other than staff time to answer landowner questions on the program. Testing would begin after Jan. 1.
The program would have helped the Brown County Planning and Zoning Office Water Plan meet goals in the Brown County Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan by encouraging private well protection from contamination sources.
Minnesota completed a revision of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) which is the state’s response strategy to nitrates in groundwater resulting from agricultural inputs. One of the goals of the plan is to minimize or mitigate the pollution source from nitrogen fertilizer.
About 20 percent community water suppliers and six percent of private wells across the state have elevated nitrate or nitrate-nitrogen levels in their water supplies. However, walk-in nitrate clinics suggest there could be anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of wells above the nitrate-nitrogen standard in some counties.
We looked at 2016 coverage about nitrates and water quality in Rep. Torkelson dismisses concerns about nitrates in Minnesota's drinking water. There seems to be a lot of that going on done in Greater Brown County. Earlier this month, we reported Brown Co. commissioners & lawmakers will talk about withholding buffer law enforcement 5 years.
Water quality problems? For heaven's sake, don't point a finger at agriculture in Brown County.
Photo: Brown County's Board of Commissioners. Never mind the possibility for a blue baby here and there.
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