Author: Laura B.

I'm the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Sustainability Information Curator, which is a fancy way of saying embedded librarian. I'm also Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. When not writing for Environmental News Bits, I'm an avid reader. Visit Laura's Reads to see what I'm currently reading.

MN: Draft proposal for protecting wild rice from excess sulfate

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is proposing that rather than relying on a single sulfate level for all wild rice waters, sulfate levels should be calculated for each wild rice water, based on location-specific factors. In coming to this conclusion, the MPCA studied how sulfate affects wild rice. The study, which began in 2012, found that:

  • In the sediment in which wild rice is rooted, sulfate from the water above is converted to sulfide by bacteria.
  • Higher levels of sulfide in the sediment create an environment that is less hospitable to wild rice.

However, certain factors change the rate at which sulfate is converted to sulfide. Most significantly, higher levels of iron can lead to less sulfide, and higher levels of organic carbon can lead to more sulfide.

To take these variables into account, the MPCA developed an equation that can determine a sulfate level that will protect wild rice for a specific water body. The agency proposes collecting sediment samples in wild rice stands, measuring the iron and organic carbon concentrations in the sediment, and then plugging the data into the equation to calculate a protective sulfate concentration for that particular wild rice water.

The MPCA will be scheduling meetings with interested stakeholders to further describe and get input on its proposal. The agency will continue to refine the proposal based on feedback and any new data.

At the same time, the MPCA will consider how the study’s findings will inform regulatory decisions and develop the data collection protocol needed to implement the proposal. The MPCA plans to go through formal rulemaking to change the existing standard later this year. The rulemaking will also include listing specific wild rice waters that are subject to the standard.

The MPCA has compiled a draft list of wild rice waters, along with a process to add waters to the list over time. These files are available below, along with an interactive map showing the draft list of wild rice waters.

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