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MPCA’s Sulfate And Wild Rice Study Released; More Information Needed Before Levels Are Adjusted [Update]

(Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has released their study on the affects of sulfate levels on the state’s wild rice growth.  The raw data was released today, with a summary to be issued by the end of February.

In general, it’s the belief of those close to the situation that more research will need to be done in order to determine whether or not high sulfate levels cause harm to wild rice growth.

As reported yesterday, at issue is a 40 year old standard that was established that limits how much sulfate – or mining discharge – can be released into wild rice producing waters.  The review has been spurred by mining officials that say that the law established in 1973 is too strict, and modern research has produced better or more-acceptable standards.

The law limits sulfate discharges into wild rice producing waters to 10 milligrams per liter during periods when the rice may be susceptible to damage. It’s based on research done by John Moyle, a biologist for the Minnesota Department of Conservation in the 1930s and 40s that found that no large wild rice stands grew in waters high in sulfate.

That law went largely unnoticed over the past four decades until new mining companies took interest in the northland’s resources.

Polymet – the mining company that is at the forefront of exploration in northern Minnesota – says that their discharge levels will meet the standard set in 1973.

The results of the new study will be released today with more details to come later this spring.

Today’s press release

Minn. to release study on sulfate and wild rice.

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