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E-M:/ nitrate pollution threatens rural drinking water

Enviro-Mich message from "Dave Dempsey" <davemec@voyager.net>

For Immediate Release
Contact: James Clift, Dave Dempsey, Lana Pollack, Stacy Cibula,  517-
Thursday, April 5, 2001

Fertilizer and Septic Waste May be Polluting One in Ten Michigan Rural
Household Wells

More than one in every ten rural household wells tested by the Michigan
Department of Agriculture showed nitrate contamination according to the
Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) report, Nitrate Neglect, released
today. Pollution exceeded federal safe drinking water standards in twenty
percent of these wells.

Nitrate pollution is caused by fertilizers, septic tanks and animal wastes.
Excessive nitrates in drinking water are known to cause “Blue Baby Syndrome”
and have been associated with spontaneous abortions and elevated risks of

“The public has been kept totally in the dark about this problem,” said Lana
Pollack, MEC President. “State government should be notifying communities
where nitrates are a problem. The State should be replacing contaminated
drinking water and undertaking prevention measures.”

In its report, Nitrate Neglect, MEC discloses that a recent groundwater
study by Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) found that 9% of all wells
it sampled were polluted with nitrates and of these one in five exceeded the
federal drinking water standard. MEC’s extrapolation from this data
indicates that there are nearly 100,000 households with nitrate
contamination in their drinking water.

MEC also obtained results of water testing done by the Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) drinking water laboratory. These results
show an increasing number of private wells contaminated with nitrates. The
greatest number and proportion of these wells are located on farms, and in
the sandy soils in southern and western Michigan.

“This report shows the number of Michigan wells with nitrate contamination
above the safe drinking water standard is alarming,” said Cyndi Roper, of
Michigan Clean Water Action and a member of the U.S. EPA’s National Drinking
Water Advisory Council. “Even more frightening, the U.S. standard allows
about twice the amount of nitrates in drinking water than other countries
allow, so the true health impacts of this poisoning are staggering.”

MEC charges that because nitrate contamination is so widespread in Michigan,
the State government will not pay replace these wells, although the State
does pay to replace wells contaminated by industrial chemicals.

The report is available on MEC’s website at

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