Facing up to the wild rice sulfate problem

Map showing MN's sulfate-impaired waters list as of Dec. 2021

December 31, 2021: For a problem to be solved, it must first be named. Given that fact, 2021 marked progress for Minnesota’s wild rice waters, many of which are tainted by sulfates. After a nudge from the federal EPA last March, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency started including those lakes and streams in its list of impaired waters in the state. The wild rice sulfate standard is the strictest in the MPCA’s book—10 parts per million—and now the agency is applying it more seriously.

Adding to Minnesota’s current (2020) Impaired Waters List, the EPA last spring named 32 water bodies, most of them on the Iron Range, where wild rice can grow but where sulfate levels exceed the standard. The MPCA itself has now added three more, all in central Minnesota: Goodners Lake, Lake Stella, and a stretch of Long Prairie River, as seen on this map on the MPCA’s website.  Read more on the MPCA’s Sulfur Impairments page.  Officially updated every two years, the full list designates impairments using some 30 criteria in addition to sulfate levels: details and interactive map.