Media Contact: Jennifer Maleitzke, (651) 296-7706 St. Paul, Minn. -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the proposed changes to the state's water-quality standards. Two of the bigger changes include adding nutrient standards for lakes and standards for the herbicides metolachlor and acetochlor. The standard for acetochlor is the nation's first. The approval means that the standards will now be used for Clean Water Act programs, such as when the MPCA issues wastewater-treatment-facility permits and conducts water-quality assessments. Water-quality standards are tools that help protect Minnesota's surface and ground water resources. Minnesota adopted its first statewide water-quality standards in 1967. These standards have been updated and new standards and regulations added periodically since then. The federal Clean Water Act requires states to update their water quality standards every three years. The nutrient standards for lakes are to address a process called "eutrophication," an increase in nutrients and algae. Phosphorus, the main cause of eutrophication, is almost always responsible for lakes becoming green due to excessive algae. The changes to standards include numeric standards for phosphorus and two indicators of eutrophication that measure the response of lakes to excess phosphorus. Specific numeric lake standards vary by the ecological regions in the state and include four different types of lakes. Courtney Kowalczak, director of Minnesota Waters' citizen monitoring program, said her organization is very excited to see numeric nutrient standards being set for our lakes. "The addition of these standards will be another tool for our citizen volunteers to use to safeguard our state's lakes," Kowalczak said. "While it is encouraging to see steps being taken to restore our polluted waters, we must not forget our responsibility to prevent damage to our currently healthy lakes." At the request of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the MPCA developed water-quality standards for acetochlor and metolachlor. Both of these herbicides are used to control annual grasses and some broadleaf weeds. More than three million pounds of acetochlor and one million pounds of metolachlor were sold in Minnesota in 2005 for use mainly on corn. The acetochlor and metolachlor standards are protective of human health, aquatic animals and aquatic plants. The standard for acetochlor is the first of its kind in the nation. Other changes to the water-quality standards include:
-- New or expanding wastewater-treatment facilities must meet a
1-milligram-per-liter total phosphorus effluent limit after May 1, 2008, if they discharge more than 1,800 pounds of phosphorus per year.
-- A fish tissue standard for mercury has been added.
-- Fecal coliform bacteria standards have been replaced by E. coli standards.
Mark Tomasek, who oversees the MPCA's water-quality-standards rulemaking process, said these new standards will help protect Minnesota's water resources. "Implementation of lake standards and new phosphorus effluent limits, along with public awareness, will protect Minnesota's surface waters from excess nutrients and associated algae blooms," Tomasek said.
Additional information on the standards can be found on the MPCA's Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us/water/standards/rulechange.html.