Private wells to be tested
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture plans to test 70,000 private wells in the state’s farming regions to measure nitrogen that seeps into the ground after fertilizing.
The state says the level of pollution from tons of fertilizer that’s applied each year across the southern two-thirds of the state is rising. A survey in 2011 found excessive pollution in 62 percent of the wells monitored by the state in central Minnesota.
The Star Tribune says that besides the well testing, the state hopes to persuade farmers to better control their use of fertilizer. That could include asking farmers not to fertilize in the fall when the risk to groundwater is greatest, or even taking land out of production.
Environmentalists don’t think the plan is strong enough. Critics say it assumes landowners will voluntarily protect the water.
More Minnesota land is being put into production due to high commodity prices that are driving land prices to record levels.
Under law, private well owners are responsible for testing their wells and for their own drinking water safety. However, the state can also test private wells.
When pesticides are detected in Minnesota wells, the levels are usually very low and periodic testing is the only means of determining whether drinking water contains contaminants above Health Risk Limits set by the Minnesota Department of Health.