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Groundwater Regulations Sunk with Health Bill Veto

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 By Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Contact
May 10, 2007

One of the victims of the governor's veto of a $10 billion health bill this week was a provision designed to clean up Minnesota drinking water. Its author is State Rep. Ken Tschumper.

“This bill would require the Department of Health to upgrade the drinking water standards on 10 commonly-detected contaminants of groundwater throughout the state.”

He believes we need to deal with threats to state waters from the agricultural pesticide atrazine and other chemicals linked to health problems. Tschumper emphasizes that the failure to deal the water contaminants means we're drinking carcinogens every day. Rural Minnesota could be most at risk. He calls on farmers to be on the "cutting edge" of dealing with the environmental problems associated with agricultural activity.

Tschumper notes that while his plan is designed to protect the health of Minnesotans, it has some opposition because of politics and economics.

“If we update the drinking water standards on a large number of possible contaminants, we're going to see a lot of the health risk limits needing to be lowered. And, that means that a lot of communities are going to have unsafe levels of contaminants in their water supply. Then, the question is, who's going to pay to correct that?”

A law requiring the department to update standards for public water supplies and private wells is already on the books, but isn't being enforced, according to Tschumper. He adds that his provision mandates state officials do what they're already supposed to be doing.

“It simply requires the Department of Health to start the formal process of upgrading these drinking water standards for both public water supplies and private wells. The department is mandated, by law, to review drinking water standards every four years. They haven't done it since the mid-1990s.”

The governor says he vetoed the bill, which also included increased funding for health care and nursing homes, because the cost was out of the park.
The bill passed by the Legislature was $9.8 billion. Gov. Pawlenty had proposed spending $9.5 billion on health and human services.

Tschumper adds that he expects the water safety provisions to be included in whatever new legislation is drawn up.

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