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Danger of nitrate in rural water supply

To the editor:

A City Pages article by Hannah Jones on the water pollution in Minnesota indicates it is also a manure problem in farm country. The 72 agricultural counties in the state have seen nitrate contamination (1995-2018) in the drinking water increase by 61% on average.

Minnesota has nearly 24,000 feedlots for poultry, cows, and pigs, most of them located in the southern and central parts of the state. They generate an estimated 49 million tons of manure each year, which is equivalent to the amount of waste from 95 million people. This amount of manure along with nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops vastly exceeds the ability of the land to dispose of it safely.

We will not be able to continue business as usual. Instead we must process the manure in treatment plants, so that nitrogen and phosphorus doesn’t continue to increase and contaminate our drinking water, lakes, and streams. All the fertilizer and manure waste which escapes down the Mississippi also adds too the deaf zone in the Gulf of Mexico and contributes to toxic algae blooms.

A recent letter in the New England Journal of Medicine (6-4-20) used the global information tracking system to show that people (ages 18-60) who had developed chronic kidney disease also lived and worked in areas with markedly elevated nitrate levels in California drinking water.

What is happening in farm country with nitrate and phosphorus pollution needs to stop and efforts made to undo the damage. Poisoning the land and ourselves is not a wise endeavor.

John Kluge

New Ulm

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