The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has just proposed eliminating the 10 milligrams per liter wild rice sulfate standard and beginning a process that would plug iron and organic carbon numbers into a formula to get a different sulfate limit for each of more than 1,300 wild rice water bodies.
Scientists are concerned that the MPCA's proposal has not been validated in experiments, and it hasn't been shown even if the model accurately predicts sulfide levels, let alone that it would protect ecological communities of wild rice. Some researchers have called the proposal "scientifically indefensible."
Learn more about the MPCA proposal and how to protect wild rice.
The Minnesota Legislature is threatening to block enforcement of the wild rice standard to avoid costs of treating polluted discharge. WaterLegacy believes that enforcement of Minnesota’s existing wild rice sulfate standard is required by sound science and by the federal Clean Water Act.
Paula Maccabee, Advocacy Director/Counsel for WaterLegacy testified at the Minnesota House Environment & Natural Resources Policy & Finance Committee on February 24, 2015 in opposition to a bill that would suspend the wild rice sulfate standard and prevent listing of Minnesota wild rice waters that are impaired due to excessive sulfate pollution. (H.F. 1000)
WaterLegacy summarized the grounds for our concerns about the legislative proposal:
First, the scientific evidence gathered as a result of taxpayer-funded research demonstrates clearly that interference with enforcement of the existing Minnesota wild rice sulfate standard would be unreasonable and unscientific. Second, legislation preventing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) from fulfilling its obligations to control sulfate pollution and list wild rice impaired waters would conflict with the Clean Water Act, which is governing federal law. As the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advised in 2011, failure of our State to comply with the Clean Water Act and enforce the wild rice sulfate standard could result in Minnesota’s loss of state authority to control water pollution.
Read WaterLegacy’s complete testimony and materials provided to Committee Members.
02/11/15 Read WaterLegacy's Counterpoint: The science is clear: Protect our wild rice, a Star Tribune article by WaterLegacy Advocacy Director and Counsel, Paula Maccabee. “The Earth is not flat, there is no tooth fairy and sulfate limits are required to protect natural stands of wild rice.”
WaterLegacy, Native Tribes and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criticize Failure of State Agencies to Set Limits for Minntac Tailings Pollution
After nearly three decades of pollution in violation of Minnesota water quality standards, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency finally suggested that they would prepare a pollution control permit. The pre-publication draft of the permit, released to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff, tribal staff and a few stakeholders, failed to require Minntac to comply with water quality standards by any specific date and failed to require seepage from the huge, 13-square-mile tailings impoundment to comply with the Clean Water Act when this pollution affects wetlands, streams and wild rice beds.
- Read in the Star Tribune about the failure to regulate pollution at the Minntac tailings basin, the destruction of wild rice and mercury pollution in fish in the Star Tribune. "Minntac is a poster child for failure to regulate pollution," said Paula Maccabee, attorney for WaterLegacy.
- View coverage on Northland News Center television, where WaterLegacy's Paula Maccabee explains that copper-nickel mining should not be approved when the State is still ineffective in controlling taconite mine pollution, "What are we doing thinking of allowing copper–nickel mining, which is a new, and a different, and a more toxic kind of mining? Let's first get our house in order."
- Wild Rice Rulemaking Fact Sheet -- Reviews laws that govern wild rice rulemaking and explains why "waters used for the production of wild rice” should include all existing wild rice waters identified by the Department of Natural Resources or tribal research as wild rice waters and any waters growing natural wild rice at any time covered under the Clean Water Act (1975 through today).