Tim Ahrens: Our groundwater is becoming more contaminated

Tim Ahrens: Our groundwater is becoming more contaminated

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I’ve never written a letter to the editor before and frankly never wanted to. However, some recent “information” from Daley Farm of Lewiston is so questionable it must receive a response.

Daley Farm has asserted that “Due to the family’s stewardship and utilization of best practices, nitrate percentages in area wells had improved by 2-3 percent since 1991.”

MPCA’s 1991 study titled Water Quality and Sensitivity of the Prairie Du Chien-Jordan Aquifer in Western Winona County states on page 19: “Ten wells (18 percent) sampled in 1990 had nitrate-N concentrations in excess of ten mg/l…” 

In the Minnesota Department of Agriculture 2018 study titled Final Township Testing Nitrate Report: Winona County 2016-2017, in Daley’s Utica Township specifically, 19.6% of wells were contaminated with nitrates in excess of the safe drinking water standard (this is even after some data was removed to account for inferior well construction, proximity to septic systems, etc.).

Before this subset of wells was excluded, the study found a devastating 46.5% of wells in Utica Township are unsafe for drinking. The study also found an estimated 1,324 residents of Winona County (nearly 1 in 5 people drinking from private wells) have water that isn’t safe to drink due to nitrate contamination.

Recently, Anthony Runkel from Minnesota Geological Survey presented the study Nitrate Transport through the Surface-Groundwater System in Southeastern Minnesota.

The presentation ended with the question: “Is the [nitrate] problem getting worse?” His answer was, “Yes, in the deeper aquifers commonly utilized for drinking water [it is].”

Now is certainly not the time to take the manure spreaders out for a victory lap.

I believe farmers, including the Daleys, are the beating heart of rural Winona County. I also believe drinking water is the county’s lifeblood. After debates about the Daley Farm proposed expansion are over, we’ll still have a worsening water problem, and we’ll all have to work diligently to solve it.

Winona County residents, please don’t allow your understanding of this dire situation to become as contaminated as your water supply.

Tim Ahrens, Altura

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