MPCA to make initial sulfate ruling

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Thursday is expected to make its first recommendation on how much sulfate pollution is too much for wild rice.

The agency will announce whether the current sulfate limit for wild rice waters, 10 parts per million, is too high, too low or just right.

PCA officials say they also will work toward an administrative rule change to better clarify exactly where the rule should be enforced — which lakes and rivers are official wild rice waters.

The Duluth News Tribune quotes  Shannon Lotthammer, director of the PCA’s environmental analysis division as saying, “This is going to be our preliminary recommendation based on the science we have so far.”
Lotthammer said the recommendation will be preliminary until a scientific panel can review the field and laboratory data collected during the past two years on which the PCA is basing its decision.

The sulfate rule, if enforced, has huge implications for the state’s iron mining industry, with some taconite processing plants apparently releasing sulfate at levels above the current standard. It could affect the state’s fledgling copper mining industry as well as wastewater treatment plants in areas where wild rice grows, or did grow in the past.

The current sulfate rule was enacted in the 1970s based on work from the 1940s by a state biologist who found that wild rice didn’t grow in water with high sulfate levels.