Minnesota county rejects state’s free offer to test wells for pollution

NEW ULM, Minn. — A south-central Minnesota county rejected the state Department of Agriculture’s offer for free nitrate well tests.
Brown County rejected the program in December after residents voiced fears that the data could be used to target farmers for additional regulations, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
“The assumption is that all these nitrates come from farmers and from fertilizer when they’re coming there naturally from the natural break down of organic matter in the soil,” said Greg Bartz, president of the Brown County Farm Bureau.
“So, (we’re) being blamed for something that is not our fault.” Nitrates can come from failing septic systems, fertilizer and animal manure.
High nitrate levels can cause health risks, such as a life-threatening blood disorder known as blue-baby syndrome.
Environmental groups are critical of the county’s decision.
Almost 20 counties across the state have agreed to participate in the program and Brown County is the first to turn it down, said Trevor Russell, program director for Friends of the Mississippi River.
Brown County offers free water testing for families with newborns, county officials said.
The department began the program in 2013 to give homeowners free information about their drinking water and to gather data about the state’s groundwater.
The program focused on about 300 townships vulnerable to nitrate contamination because of farming and soil type.

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