WasteWatch 2024: Minnesota

The state of Minnesota lies on the shores of Lake Superior and the final state the Mississippi river runs through. Home to a myriad of lakes, forests, and a variety of wildlife. While the state manages water quality and testing at a high standard, Minnesota deals with environmental challenges, including PFAS and agricultural runoff leading to nitrate pollution.

374Water in Minnesota:
With support from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and partnership with Barr Engineering Co., 374Water is spearheading initiatives to eliminate PFAS contamination and other hazards in biosolids in the state of Minnesota.

This week’s Wastewatch 2024 episode travels to Minnesota as Moore Halfon and David Garb, 374Water application engineer, discuss environmental challenges further.

Here is what you need to know:
The basics:
Life expectancy – 79.1, 3rd in the nation
Population – 5.5M
Total land area – 86,938.87 sq. miles
Total water area – 7,328.79 sq. miles

Main Environmental Issues:
The first site of PFAS contamination discovered in Minnesota was in the early 2000s originating in industrial waste. This pollution contaminated 150 square miles of drinking water. Currently, the number of water sources impaired by PFAS pollution is 26, with water supplies of over 140,000 people contaminated.
Over 70% of nitrate found in waterways in Minnesota originates from agricultural croplands. The process of nitrate leaching from the soil beneath crop fields, into the groundwater is responsible for approximately 30% of nitrate content in surface waters. On average, 158 million pounds of nitrate leaves Minnesota per year in the Mississippi river.

Organizations advocating for the environment and water:
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Waste Wise

Environmental journalists and reporters to follow:
Kirsti Marohn
Sarah Horner
Nora Hertel
Josephine Marcotty

Recent News:
– 12 Minnesota suburbs, including suburbs of Minneapolis-St.Paul, exceeded
the EPA’s limits for PFAS in drinking water. (Minnesota Reformer, August.
– Out of 101 closed public waste sites, 98 of them were contaminated by PFAS.
(CBS News, July. 2023)
– Nearly 400,000 people in Southeast Minnesota are affected by high nitrate
concentrations (Investigate Midwest, Nov. 2023)

Next Steps:
In efforts to protect the health of Minnesotans and their environment, in 2023, the state legislature passed “Amara’s law”, a crucial milestone, banning non-essential PFAS in consumer products. Next steps should include new regulations on nitrate fertilizers to prevent excess nitrate from discharging into the state’s water sources. Moreover, in efforts to combat against existing contamination, Minnesota needs to consider adopting solutions that remove pollutants like PFAS and excess nitrates from the state’s water.