1 in 5 wells has unsafe levels of contaminants — USGS

Annie Snider, E&E reporter

Published: Monday, January 26, 2015

Farming practices, urban sprawl and groundwater pumping and recharge are dramatically changing the aquifers that supply drinking water to 130 million Americans, according to a new federal report.

Over the last two decades, two-thirds of groundwater areas studied in the new U.S. Geological Survey report saw upward trends in key man-made contaminants. At the top of the list are nitrates — a fertilizer byproduct that can cause blue baby syndrome and breathing problems in adults — and dissolved solids and chlorides — salts that can harm aquatic ecosystems.

Overall, the report, which summarized more than 230 groundwater studies that took water samples from 6,600 wells between 1991 and 2010, found 1 in 5 drinking water wells with at least one contaminant at levels higher than federal standards.

Most of those contaminants came from geologic sources, but the study found that people’s use of water — through irrigation, pumping, artificial recharge and other activities — can cause naturally occuring contaminants from aquifer rocks and sediments to be released.

To be sure, detecting pollution in drinking water wells does not necessarily indicate human health concerns at the tap. The samples were taken before water was treated by municipal utilities. But private residential wells are not subject to federal standards, and treatment is up to homeowners.

Man-made contaminants were most concentrated in the shallow groundwater beneath agricultural and urban land, the report found, rather than the deeper parts of aquifers that are tapped for drinking water.

While that may be a relief in the near term, it could pose problems over the long term, according to the report.

Groundwater moves slowly; the health of many aquifers today is the result of activities and contaminants from 30 years ago.

“Over time, the changes that we see in shallow groundwater are likely to appear in the deeper parts of aquifers, as the shallow groundwater moves downward,” the report states. “This change in quality of deeper aquifers is a concern for the future because the restoration of groundwater supplies that have become contaminated is difficult, is costly, and can take decades.”


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DNR to hold info sessions on proposed groundwater management area

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will share information on a draft groundwater management area plan for the north and east metro region at three public meetings in February. Meetings will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at the following locations:

• Monday, Feb. 9
Eagle Valley Golf Course, 2600 Double Eagle Lane, Woodbury.

• Wednesday, Feb. 18
Century College East Campus, 3300 Century Avenue North, Lincoln Mall conference   room (second floor), White Bear Lake.

• Thursday, Feb. 26
Blaine Public Works Facility, 1801 101st Ave. NE, Blaine.
(The large black building located directly behind the Schwann’s Super Rink.  Enter  through the main entrance on the southwest, glass corner of the building).

These local meetings will allow DNR to introduce the proposed plan, describe the process used to develop it, explain the goals and actions in the plan, and gather feedback. The DNR will accept comments on the draft plan through the end of March 2015.

Comments can be submitted by email to NEMetroGWMA.dnr@state.mn.us, or by completing a survey posted on the project webpage. The draft plan and a fact sheet will be posted on the same web page.
The North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area is being established to make sure that groundwater supplies remain adequate to meet current and future needs, while also protecting ecosystems such as lakes, streams and wetlands. It includes all of Ramsey and Washington Counties, southern Anoka County, and a small portion of Minneapolis east of the Mississippi River.

The North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area is one of three groundwater management areas being established around the state, the other two being in central Minnesota near the cities of Brooten-Belgrade and around the Straight River near Park Rapids.  These areas are being established because Minnesota’s increasing reliance on groundwater creates the need to plan for sustainable use that protects the environment while allowing for economic growth and development.

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Mini Eco Experience coming from the State Fair to Bemidji’s Headwaters Science Center

Detroit Lakes, Minn. — Exhibits from the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco Experience are visiting the Headwaters Science Center in downtown Bemidji from Jan. 31 to June 15, 2015. A special opening day reception will be held Saturday, Jan. 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Although you won’t find Pronto Pups, cheese curds, or the Mighty Midway, a small set of exhibits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Department of Commerce  dubbed “Climate, Energy and Community: What we can do,” provide interactive opportunities to explore home energy use and Minnesota’s changing climate. The exhibits are geared for adults and children to learn together.

“Climate change is impacting Minnesotans now, and in many ways,” says Britt Gangeness with the MPCA. “Knowing what to expect can help us prepare for changes and improve the resiliency of our communities and countryside.” She said those attending will be able to:

  • Identify ways to save energy at your home
  • Explore solar technology for heating, electricity, and hot water
  • Identify trees to plant that will thrive in Minnesota’s new climate
  • Read about people across Minnesota who are addressing climate change by saving energy or reducing waste
  • Take home their own eco-friendly “to-do list” from the kids’ puzzle table

During the special opening day reception Jan. 31, participants can visit with representatives from the MPCA and Dept. of Commerce as well as the Bemidji State University Sustainability Office, Rail River Folk School, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), and Otter Tail Power Company.

The event is free for Science Center members and free with admission to the museum. Museum admission is $7 for adults (12 and up), $6 for seniors (65 or older) and military (with ID), $5 for children ages 2-11, and free for children under 2. For location and museum hours visit www.hscbemidji.org. For more information on the Jan. 31 reception, visit http://www.pca.state.mn.us/x66xdkp .

Broadcast version

Exhibits from the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco Experience are visiting the Headwaters Science Center in downtown Bemidji from Jan. 31 to June 15, 2015. A special opening day reception will be held Saturday, Jan. 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A set of exhibits dubbed “Climate, Energy and Community: What we can do,” provide interactive opportunities to explore home energy use and Minnesota’s changing climate. The exhibits are geared for adults and children to learn together.

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DNR hires new agricultural program liaison

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that Jason Garms is the agency’s new agricultural program liaison. Garms is a prairie biologist and a corn and soybean farmer. In his new role he will manage DNR agricultural policy development and program alignment. He will work with agriculture community leaders and farmers to strengthen the agency’s conservation partnerships.

The position was created to help the department address priority natural resource issues in Minnesota’s agricultural landscape. It reflects DNR’s recognition that technological advances in precision agriculture — that have brought about significant increases in crop productivity — bring about similar needs for advancements in precision conservation.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity,” Garms said. “I look forward to talking with the agricultural community and listening for opportunities to work together.”

At the Dec. 13 Governor’s Pheasant Summit, the DNR hosted nearly 300 citizens interested in reversing the declines in pheasant numbers in Minnesota. The top actions that emerged were increasing habitat and clean water.

These goals reinforce the purpose for establishing the new agricultural liaison position.

The agency and its partners are in the process of creating a four-year Pheasant Habitat Action Plan intended to outline new approaches for working together to increase conservation efforts in the state’s agricultural areas. The goal is a strong agricultural economy, healthy natural resources and resilient rural communities.

Most recently Garms worked for the DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources Division as the state prairie biologist. Prior to working with the DNR, he held positions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy. Garms will continue to “moonlight” as a farmer, operating his fourth generation farm in southwestern Minnesota. He holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from South Dakota State University.

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INVITE: Freshwater Report Release: 1/30, 9:3-AM — Farm to Stream: recommendations for accelerating soild and water stweardship


Friday, January 30, 9:30 – 11:00AM


Freshwater Society releases report on improvements to voluntary agricultural conservation system


Minnesota relies almost entirely on a voluntary system to reduce water pollution from agricultural lands. Recent studies reveal, however, that there is much more to be done. The Freshwater Society is releasing a report offering a series of recommendations on how to improve Minnesota’s voluntary agricultural conservation program.


Freshwater Society undertook a project involving a farmer-led pilot project and an analysis of voluntary programs in the region. The report, Farm to Stream: recommendations for accelerating soil and water stewardship, provides a set of suggestions for changes to the funding, staffing, research and execution of Minnesota’s current system.


WHAT:             The authors will provide an overview of Farm to Stream: recommendations for accelerating soil and water stewardship and engage board members, donors, participants, sponsors, and members of the media in a discussion of the findings. Each attendee will receive a copy of the report.

*Refreshments and pastries provided

WHERE:           Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

3815 American Boulevard East

Bloomington, MN 55425

WHO:              Peggy Knapp, Director of Programs

Darrell Gerber, Research and Policy Director



Darrell Gerber  Research and Policy Director

Freshwater Society


(763) 219-1261

(612) 802-5372 cell

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MPCA completes 58 enforcement cases in fourth quarter of 2014; 251 cases in all of 2014

St. Paul, Minn. – In its ongoing efforts to promote environmental compliance, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency concluded 58 enforcement cases in 34 counties throughout Minnesota during the fourth quarter of 2014. Penalties from all 58 cases totaled $469,815.

In all of 2014, the MPCA concluded 251 cases, totaling just under $1.835 million.

Environmental enforcement investigations often take several months, and, in highly complex cases, more than a year. Although, in rare instances, they can involve courts, they are most often negotiated settlements where the goal is compliance with environmental rules. Fines issued are targeted to match the environmental harm, economic advantage gained or environmental corrective actions.

In addition to these 58 recently completed cases, the MPCA also has 97 ongoing enforcement investigations, 12 of which were opened as new cases during the fourth quarter of 2014. Not all investigations lead to fines or other official action.

Imposing monetary penalties is only part of the MPCA’s enforcement process. Agency staff continue to provide assistance, support and information on the steps and tools necessary to achieve compliance for any company or local government that requests it.

Here’s a brief summary of all 58 cases completed during the fourth quarter of 2014:

  • Jordan Transformer LLC, Jordan, for air quality violations, $85,000
  • Tiller Corp., North Branch, for air quality violations, $85,000
  • Barrel o’ Fun Snack Foods, Perham, for wastewater violations, $45,000
  • City of Hastings, for stormwater violations, $40,000
  • Carl Bolander & Sons Construction Co., St. Paul, for stormwater violations, $29,385
  • Corn Plus, Winnebago, for air quality violations, $25,141
  • Carley Foundry Inc., Blaine, for air quality violations, $16,000
  • St. Michael PPI LLC, St. Michael, for solid waste violations, $10,800
  • ADM, Red Wing, for air quality violations, $10,000
  • Certain Teed Corp, Shakopee, for air quality violations, $10,000
  • Moose Lake wastewater treatment plant, Moose Lake, for wastewater violations, $6,244
  • Denco II LLC, Morris, for air quality violations, $6,000
  • American Crystal Sugar, East Grand Forks, for air quality violations, $5,625
  • City of Victoria, for stormwater violations, $5,540
  • Minger Construction Inc., Victoria, for stormwater violations, $5,500
  • Murray County Highway Department, Hadley, for stormwater violations, $5,100
  • Bill Bagely, Belgrade, for solid waste violations, $4,900
  • Dave Fetketter, Eitzen, for solid waste violations, $4,500
  • POET Biorefining, Preston, for air quality violations, $4,025
  • Automotive Concepts, New Hope, for air quality violations, $4,000
  • Avon Body Shop, Avon, for air quality violations, $4,000
  • Kaufman Container, Minneapolis, for air quality violations, $3,400
  • Northfield wastewater treatment plant, Northfield, for stormwater violations, $3,240
  • Fergus Power Pump Inc., Fergus Falls, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $2,750
  • Rivard Cos. Inc., East Bethel, for stormwater violations, $2,625
  • Maschler Septic Consultants, Brainerd, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $2,600
  • Pearson Candy Co., St. Paul, for water quality violations, $2,475
  • WalMart Store 1757, Hermantown, for wastewater violations, $2,187
  • Dennis Barnett Property, Sturgeon Lake, for solid waste violations, $2,000
  • Progressive Truck Body Repair, Rochester, for air quality violations, $1,875
  • Griffin Construction Co. Inc., Pickwick, for stormwater violations, $1,825
  • Winona County, Pickwick, for stormwater violations, $1,825
  • Hutch Auto Body, Hutchinson, for air quality violations, $1,688
  • Bremseth Body Shop, Rochester, for air quality violations, $1,688
  • MAACO Auto Painting, Little Canada, for air quality violations, $1,688
  • Olson Paint & Body Shop, Minneapolis, for air quality violations, $1,688
  • R-Way Trailer Manufacturing LLC, Long Prairie, for air quality violations, $1,625
  • Winco Inc., Le Center, for air quality violations, $1,563
  • Stillwater Collision & Restoration, Inc., Stillwater, for air quality violations, $1,563
  • Kuehn Motor Co., Spring Valley, for air quality violations, $1,438
  • M&J Construction Co., Newfolden, for air quality violations, $1,438
  • Master Collision Group LLC, Minneapolis, for air quality violations, $1,438
  • PW Service, dba Precision Wheel Service, Hopkins, for air quality violations, $1,438
  • Schilling Graphics Inc., Owatonna, for air quality violations, $1,438
  • Robert Bartel, dba B&T Sales, Baxter, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $1,350
  • Ryan Contracting Co., Victoria, for stormwater violations, $1,040
  • 3M – Specialty Additives, Cottage Grove, for air quality violations, $1,000
  • Craig & Ramona Gwin, Brownsdale, for water quality violations, $1,000
  • Danielle Lang, Isanti, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $1,000
  • David Simcox, Kettle River, for water quality violations, $1,000
  • David Voigt, Taopi, for water quality violations, $1,000
  • Gene Studer, Rose Creek, for water quality violations, $1,000
  • Zack Sand & Gravel, Cloquet, for stormwater violations, $870
  • Heritage Court LLC, Waite Park, for stormwater violations, $800
  • PICO Northstar Hallock LLC, Kennedy, for wastewater violations, $750
  • Olson’s Excavating, Duluth, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, $650
  • Buberl Black Dirt Inc., Stillwater, for solid waste violations, $550
  • M&M Contractors, Breckenridge, for subsurface sewage treatment violations, $550


A complete summary of environmental enforcement actions and news releases can be found on the MPCA’s News Media Center webpage. For questions on specific enforcement cases, call Stephen Mikkelson, Information Officer, at 218-316-3887 or toll free at 800-657-3864.

Broadcast version

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency completed 58 enforcement cases in 34 Minnesota counties during the fourth quarter of 2014. The penalties for these cases totaled just under 470-thousand dollars.

In all of 2014, the M-P-C-A completed 251 cases, totaling over one-point-eight-million dollars.

The M-P-C-A also has 97 ongoing enforcement investigations that may or may not lead to penalties being issued.

A list of all enforcement actions can be found on the agency’s website at www.pca.state.mn.us.

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Fishing for Ducks – Saturday February 21st, 2015

Please join us at 11th Annual Fishing for Ducks 
Saturday, February 21st, 2015
Located in Garrison Bay on Mille Lacs Lake

$30 Ticket (Per Hole) – 2 Hole Max Per Person
Tickets increase to $40 after 11:59 PM on 2/15/15
To purchase your tickets online please click the Buy Tickets link below.

Visit www.fishingforducks.org for more information.

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Legislative Update, January 22, 2015

Greetings from the DNR,

This week the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee heard agency overview presentations.  The MN Pollution Control Agency started their overview on Tuesday, completing it on Thursday.  On Wednesday the committee heard overviews from the MN Zoo, Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the Legislative-Citizen’s Commission on Minnesota Resources.  The Board of Water and Soil Resources started its overview on Thursday and will continue Tuesday 1/27.  Look for the Outdoor Heritage bill (HF 181) on Wednesday and the LCCMR bill on Thursday.

In the Mining & Outdoor Recreation Committee, a wolf informational hearing was held on Tuesday.  The DNR and Dr. David Mech were the presenters.  On Wednesday, DNR provided a mining overview and was followed by EQB presenters on silica sand.  An informational hearing on silica sand mining is scheduled for next Tuesday.

In the Ag Policy Committee, DNR presented on the groundwater management areas pilot program.  The Education Finance Committee heard a DNR presentation on School Trust Lands and the Permanent School Fund.  Ways and Means heard HF 164, Disaster assistance deficiency funding.

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate regarding rule making, Enforcement deficiency funding, and to repeal aquatic invasive species prevention program requirements.

Please contact me at pat.rivers@state.mn.us or Bob Meier (bob.meier@state.mn.us ) if you have any comments on concerns.  I hope you are able to enjoy our mild weather and Minnesota’s great outdoors!

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