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Bombarding SWCDs with excessive tests is a drain on funds

Monday, August 26, 2019


To the editor,

Last week I attended a local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) meeting. I was concerned over a letter in the Review Messenger from Mike Tauber of the Northern Water Alliance regarding Pineland Sands issues.

Mr. Tauber’s letter is a continuation of the old argument that everything farmers do is harming the land. So, I requested and received test results from the latest complaint. It dealt with private well contamination and 23 test were performed on private wells.

The wells were tested for Coliform, E. coli, and Nitrate levels. Of the 23 tests, no recordable levels were found for Coliform or E. coli. For Nitrogen – and only one was over the 10 parts per million (10mg/l). This was apparently a former feed lot. Two other tests were slightly over the 5mg/l halfway point. Ten tests showed less then 1mg/l. Ten were between 1-4mg/l.

In one example, three tests were taken from three wells on one farm site:

  • The first test, from the outside tap, showed 1.49mg/l
  • The second test, from the kitchen tap, was 4.1mg/l
  • The final test, from the bathroom sink, was 1.65mg/l

I found it interesting wells so close together would have different levels. But mg/l is the same as parts per million (PPM). The amount is so small that a very slight variance easily could show a 2.5mg/l difference. It should also be noted the wells were all shallow, with two at 60 ft. and one at 25 ft.

These tests are expensive and consume dollars that would otherwise be used for hands-on projects. They are performed as a result of petition brought forward from citizens across Minnesota. Many of the signers do not live in this area. This particular group of Mr. Tauber’s is working on its third petition. I suspect it will not be the last.

I am not against testing if there is a problem. But seemingly random tests when there is no evidence to suggest a problem exists is not the best use of funds. The SWCDs do a good job working with land owners. I know they would be putting this money to better use on shovel-ready projects instead of having to pay for round after round of excessive testing.


Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston

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