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Who calls the shots on river dumping?

By Staff | Mar 20, 2011

There are a lot more issues floating around the controversial Buffalo Lake Energy pipeline plan than just whether the water headed to the Blue Earth River is polluted.

In fact, it would be so much simpler if the discharge water was polluted. Because, then it would be easy to say no, it isn’t right. It would be easy to protest it and fight the plan all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

But, BLE has repeatedly said the water they are discharging is not polluted. It is used for cooling purposes, treated for mineral content, and then discharged into Center Creek, which flows to the Blue Earth River.

And it would be easier to contest this project if the half million gallons a day discharge wasn’t already heading into the Blue Earth River. Yep, if this was a new plan, it would be much easier to say no, we don’t want it.

But, the fact remains, this water has been meandering its way down Center Creek to the river for the last five years, and nobody seemed to get real excited about it then.

Now they are.

What this has developed into, however, is a bit of a power struggle. The question has become, ‘who has authority over what is dumped into the Blue Earth River?’

The Faribault County Board of Commissioners feels it should have a right to control what is dumped into the river as it passes through its county.

The commissioners have a valid point. After all, they have worked hard – and spent money on – cleaning up the river. And, by all accounts, they have been successful in doing so. It is much better than it used to be, they say.

Other agencies and groups, such as the Greater Blue Earth River Basin Authority, also have been active in improving the quality of the river, and have likewise spent some serious money on it.

Then there is the State of Minnesota, with agencies such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which also wants clean rivers.

We all do.

The question is, who has the authority to say who can or cannot dump or discharge into the river?

It appears to us that the ultimate authority is the people at the MPCA. They are the ones who issue the permits, do the monitoring and testing, and issue the fines when someone does a no-no and pollutes the river.

But, the MPCA needs to do a much better job of working with local government boards, such as the Faribault County Commissioners, so that they are totally in the loop as to what is being done with the rivers that pass through their local area. The concerns of the local board need to be addressed by the MPCA and that needs to be done very early in the permitting process, not at the end.

Not to ‘muddy the waters’ too much more, but the issue raised by Michele Stindtman of the Soil and Water Conservation District office is one which we had thought about in the past.

Her point, which she brought up at the GBERBA meeting, was the use of our valuable water resources.

Stindtman’s concern isn’t that the water BLE wants to dump in the river might be polluted, it is that the water is being dumped at all.

She says, and I agree, that the issue should be that a million and a half gallons of our precious water resource is being dumped in the Blue Earth River, which goes to the Minnesota River, which empties into the Mississippi and ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Stindtman’s point is well taken, that instead of letting all those millions of gallons of “our” water wash away, there should be a way to recycle it, keeping it here.

Ethanol plants are not the only industries, of course, which use a lot of water.

Experts have long cautioned the overuse of water pumped from aquifers for city water use, irrigation and industrial consumption. It is a practice which needs to be continually monitored.

While we here in Minnesota are blessed with an abundance of water (we are not called the Land of 10,000 Lakes for nothing), it is still a commodity we should not take for granted.

There are many areas in the United States which have learned the hard way what it means to run short of good, quality water.