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EBass

Nitrogen pollution

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EBass

From the Strib... Local section... Thoughts

Nitrogen contamination in southern Minnesota is so severe that 27 percent of the region’s lakes and rivers could not be used for drinking water, according to an unexpectedly blunt assessment of state water pollution released Wednesday.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) said that, overall, 41 percent of the streams and lakes in southern Minnesota have excessive nitrogen, which can be toxic to fish and other forms of aquatic life and is the state’s most widespread form of water pollution.

Nitrogen is one of the nutrients that sweeps down the Mississippi River from the Upper Midwest and into the Gulf of Mexico, where it creates a polluted area known as the “dead zone” which now covers an area as big as Massachusetts.

Reducing nitrogen by just a third would result in much healthier lakes and rivers — but would cost tens of millions of dollars annually in each watershed, the PCA said in a report released today.

Three fourths of the nutrient comes from fertilizers used in agriculture, particularly tile drainage that sends contaminated water from farm fields directly into ditches and streams, the report found. About 9 percent comes from wastewater treatment plants, and 1 percent from urban runoff.

And the trend is worsening in some parts of the state, the report found, particularly for the Mississippi River.

Nitrogen concentrations are modest in the upper reaches of the river, where there is little agriculture. Nonetheless, the river showed increasing concentrations between 1976 and 2010 — ranging between 87% and 268% — everywhere between Camp Ripley and LaCrosse. During recent years nitrate concentrations were increasing everywhere downstream of Clearwater at a rate of 1 to 4 percent per year.

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chasineyes

Quote:
Three fourths of the nutrient comes from fertilizers used in agriculture, particularly tile drainage that sends contaminated water from farm fields directly into ditches and streams, the report found. About 9 percent comes from wastewater treatment plants, and 1 percent from urban runoff.

No [PoorWordUsage] sherlock!! Don't need a fancy study to tell us that. Having lived in SC Minnesota I can tell you the number of times we were waterskiing on pea soup! EVERYTIME!!

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Kyhl

Pfft. Must be flawed science. Farmers are the stewards of the earth. wink

The good news is they have drained most of the shallow marsh land in the southwest corner of the state so thay won't be contaminated. :tongue in cheek:

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kerryd15

Check out the "nitrogen cycle" some time. Our soils can produce 20 pounds of nitrogen, per year, per percent organic matter. The amount of nitrogen applied by farmer is to supplement the amount the soil can give. If farmers are over applying nitrogen, why is the corn yellow? This makes sense to have hi nitrogen after a dry year. The microbes in the topsoil were active, breaking down the organic matter. The only way to get soil nitrogen into the plant is with the water. If there is not enough water in the soil to create mass flow into the root it stays in the soil till it gets wet enough and a plant takes it up or its saturated and the water flows to the tile. Some of the heavy soils can hold up to 2 inches of available water per foot of soil. Another way to get nitrogen is with lightning. The lighting can precipitate nitrogen out of the air, good thing we haven't had much of that.

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Nick Kuhn

Nitrogen is so common in Minnesota lakes that phosphorus is the limiting factor for algae and weed growth in just about every lake. The good news is that nitrogen levels can be decreased rather rapidly (it does so naturally through plant growth and bacteria). However to do so you would also need to reduce phosphorus, which is a much more difficult process.

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fishadb

Drainage tile actually reduces runoff and pollution. The perforations in the tile take water from saturated soils so more of the water actually goes through the soil rather than running of the top of the field.

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aczr2k

More propaganda from the media...Hmm I can't hardly believe it.

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Sonicrunch

More propaganda from the media...Hmm I can't hardly believe it.
That's what I though too, until I did a little research for myself..

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/nitrogen.html

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bobbymalone

Drainage tile actually reduces runoff and pollution. The perforations in the tile take water from saturated soils so more of the water actually goes through the soil rather than running of the top of the field.

i think that's the exception rather than the rule. the effects of drain tile are well known.

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sevenmmm

No doubt whatsoever modern agriculture and synthetic fertilizers are responsible for the dilemma, as otherwise the rainwater would soak into the earth instead of resulting in runoff into our fishing water.

However, I don't expect any changes until the soil is totally depleted of top soil...

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kerryd15

Tile does reduce runoff. Runoff is above ground. Anything going into the tile without an open inlet is filtered by the soil itself. Phosphorus is generally held to the soil particle by its atomic charge like a magnet. Phosphorus enters the water with soil movement. Which is why you see all the grass buffer strips going in along the creeks and ditchs. The grass will slow the movement of water and filter the soil out. Kind of like panning for gold. Nitrate on the other hand has the same charge as the soil. The soil repells it so it stays in "suspension" It can move down with the water or it can move up with the water. Soil is like a sponge, and can soak up to 2 inches of plant available water per foot and hold it before the first drop drips into a tile line. If the tile line wasn't there the water would pond and drain across the top of the soil causing erosion which would put even more nutrients of all kinds into the waterways. By the way most of the fertilizer nitrogen applied is in the ammonium form. Ammonium and ammonia do attach to the soil when applid.

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chasineyes

Is there is Nitrogen is cow [PoorWordUsage]?

I know of many farmers who live along Lake Elysian where I grew up that would spread it on thick and then along comes a heavy rain and poof down the hill into the lake/river it goes. But what do I know, I"m just a urban dweller letting my car wash soap go down the drain. whistle

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jentz

Anyone here know that when the clean water act was put together farmers were and yet are the only entity to be exempt from any cleanwater rules.

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brakedancer

last week around Hutchinson at least one farmer was having liquid nitrogen applied via airplane crop dusting..how much of that runs away..

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aczr2k

last week around Hutchinson at least one farmer was having liquid nitrogen applied via airplane crop dusting..how much of that runs away..

I'd bet very little to none. We aren't in the habit of just wasting money.

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kerryd15

I'm not sure on the clean water act. I do know that every creek that has a grass strip along it, that land was basically donated to the state or county by the farmer to plant grass. And they still pay taxes on it. As for the manure, yes there is nitrogen in it. I also know that there are very few farm that are small enough anymore to be able to get by without a manure management plan that has to be approved by the county or the state Enviroment Protection Agency- EPA. These plan mandate the maximum amount of Nitrogen and phosphorus that can be applied in a given year or crop rotation. The manure is sampled before application to evaluate plant available nutrients. It will also mandate a distance from any surface water. The distance from surface water can change based on if the manure is incorporated into the soil-so it can't run off, or left on top. The slope of the land being applied as well as if the ground is froze is also takin in to account. They may be exempt from some things but they definitely have rules to obey.

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fuzzyray

One on the biggest issues tiling causes is that when we do have rain events the water makes its way to the rivers and streams at a much faster rate then ever before. The equilibrium that streams/rivers had reached took 1,000's of years to reach. This increase volume of water causes the banks be be unstable and that is why we are having a lot more issues with bank erosion, also the sediement and nutrients that are in the water have less chance of settling out and being filtered and therefore end up in our lakes or into the major rivers and off to the Golf of Mexico. It used to be that many small streams would be running with water year round at reasonable rates. Now many roar in the spring and during heavy rain events while going almost dry at other times of the year.

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delcecchi

So, if everyone has to have these manure management plans, where does all the nitrogen in the Minnesota River come from?

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PurpleFloyd

So, if everyone has to have these manure management plans, where does all the nitrogen in the Minnesota River come from?
http://mrbdc.mnsu.edu/sites/mrbdc.mnsu.edu/files/public/pdf/askexpert/nitrogen.pdf

Nitrogen comes from lots of sources. If you would be familiar with having aquariums, the reason for having filters in fish tanks is because fish also create nitrogen in their waste. Obviously the amount going in is higher than what the ecosystem can absorb so you have 2 choices- reduce the input or increase the ability of the waterways to absorb or convert the nitrogen. Aquatic plants,just like corn, will use nitrogen as food so creating a scenario where the water has more contact with plants would help. Ammonia is converted from Ammonia to Ammonium and then are converted to Nitrites and then to Nitrates.The latter by bacterial processes. Adding areas where the water can get oxygenated and that have surface area for the bacteria to live and do their thing would make a big difference. But the addition of lots of tile and the surges in water that accompany that process would overwhelm the ability of any system to function properly. My personal opinion is we need more buffers and also places where overflow can be diverted and give nature a chance to take care of them on their own. But it will never happen.

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Sonicrunch

Just a small correction here. Filters in aquariums do not remove the nitrogen. That is why you have to change the water.

Unless you have plants. Then the plants will use the nitrogen.

Anyway, sorry for the thread-jack...

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BobT

I don't disagree that farming practices, particularly so of old days, can cause some less than desirable side effects on the environment.

The thing that bothers me about virtually every thread started on this subject or others like it is how they are so lopsided against farming it quite frankly gets sickening. To listen to you guys one can only conclude that you would be happiest if farming could be eliminated completely.

Lets face facts. Farming is only one piece of the pie. Urban sprawl with all of our pavement, buildings, parking lots, etc. contribute as much if not more to the problem. If we are going to be truly objective we have to also look in the mirror when we point our fingers.

We need our homes, factories, schools, churches, shopping centers, etc. and we need our farms. All these things have a negative impact on our environment. How about we stop pointing our selfish fingers at everyone else and start looking in our own back yards first?

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PurpleFloyd

Just a small correction here. Filters in aquariums do not remove the nitrogen. That is why you have to change the water.

Unless you have plants. Then the plants will use the nitrogen.

Anyway, sorry for the thread-jack...

Where did I say that was the case? I stated that bacteria break ammonia down to nitrite and then nitrate. I also stated plants will absorb the nitrogen. So what exactly were you correcting?

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kerryd15

Where did I say that was the case?

the reason for having filters in fish tanks is because fish also create nitrogen in their waste.

Might not have been stated but could have been taken that way.

The reason these threads are one sided is farmers are 1-2% of the population.

Having areas for the water to slow and settle is probably the best answer. but with land prices what they are, the government is not going to go buying up a bunch of land to make lakes. I suppose we could build a dam on the minnesota river valley and make the new devils lake!! We could flood it all the way to morton.

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bobbymalone

I suppose we could build a dam on the minnesota river valley and make the new devils lake!! We could flood it all the way to morton.

Might have to bring it up a hundred and fifty feet or so, but I'd be fine with the lakeshore property.

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Kyhl

I don't disagree that farming practices, particularly so of old days, can cause some less than desirable side effects on the environment.

The thing that bothers me about virtually every thread started on this subject or others like it is how they are so lopsided against farming it quite frankly gets sickening. To listen to you guys one can only conclude that you would be happiest if farming could be eliminated completely.

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