Range Leaders Oppose Sulfide/Sulfate Standard

Renee Passal
October 19, 2017 08:52 PM

Inside Local 1938's union hall in Virginia, Range leaders stood shoulder to shoulder on Thursday. They are presenting a united front with their concerns about the MPCA's proposed sulfate/sulfide standard.

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"Let me start by saying this isn't about being against wild rice. We all love wild rice," Senator Dave Tomassoni explained. "But the onerous standard I have an issue with."

The MPCA is proposing changing from a sulfate standard to a sulfide standard. Here's their reasoning.

Based on research, they've determined that sulfates themselves do not harm wild rice. But if the sulfates, which are byproducts of many industries, turn into sulfides, those sulfides can be harmful. However, the presence of iron and carbon can change how efficiently the sulfates make that turn. So they are proposing a sulfide limit, with an equation-based system for determining sulfates.

"We believe this is an innovative and precise approach to protecting wild rice, and a significant improvement to the existing standard," Lotthammer said.

She added that the MPCA understands that there is concern on the Range because of the cost to treat waters to get to a low sulfate level. "We do have tools to use that we can work with the cities and companies, until the treatment technology becomes more cost-efficient."

One tool is a variance. Range leaders like Steve Giorgi, executive director of RAMS, are skeptical. "There are very few granted and they can be costly."

Rep. Jason Metsa said the Range delegation is working on a bill that would ask the MPCA to stop working on the rule. "I think it's irresponsible a state agency is pushing forward with a rule-making process with no scientific evidence to back up they need a rule. Plus, the treatment technology results in sulfides that need to be stored somewhere."

Tomassoni added that the DNR said there was a bumper crop of wild rice this year, and questioned where there needed to be a standard. He and others said that the MPCA can't say definitively that if the new sulfide standard is implemented, that wild rice would grow better.

Lotthammer said it's more about protecting the current wild rice than better growth.

Public hearings are coming up. The one on the Range is Tuesday, at 4pm, at the Mesabi Range college. There will be a rally ahead of time, at 3pm, at the park across the street near Silver Lake.

And public comments can be submitted until November 22nd:


Renee Passal

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