Minnesota Wild Rice Standard to Make Way for Mining?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is preparing later this month (November 2010) to propose a rule change to increase the amount of sulfate pollution allowed in Minnesota waters where wild rice grows to 500% of the current limit. The MPCA is relying on a technical report having to do with paddy rice, seemingly without regard to the fact that there is no evidence that this standard would protect naturally-growing wild rice, which only thrives in low-sulfate waters of 10 mg/L or less.

Mining companies have been asking for this change for months, since mining in sulfide-containing rock results in huge volumes of sulfate pollution. The PolyMet NorthMet open pit mine proposal is upstream of wild rice waters in the Partridge River and the St. Louis River and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently cautioned that the proposed PolyMet mine may not comply with Minnesota’s 10 mg/L sulfate standard for wild rice waters.

Last Thursday, about 40 ricers, environmentalist and tribal elders met in St. Paul and Duluth to ask the MPCA not to weaken wild rice sulfate standards and to enforce the rules fairly to protect wild rice from year-round seeps and discharge from sulfide mining. Our briefing materials are included with this post: Preserve Wild Rice Standard .

Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe that mining and other industrial projects should be designed to meet water quality standards. Too often, these days, it seems that the corporations propose a project and then try to weaken, bend and manipulate the standards and the mathematical models so that they can keep cutting corners instead of preventing pollution.

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