KEYC - Nitrate Bioreactors: The New Tool For Cleaning Farm Run-Off

Nitrate Bioreactors: The New Tool For Cleaning Farm Run-Off

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There's a long-standing battle when it comes to agriculture and water quality.
But just north of Blue Earth, along highway 169, they're trying a fairly noninvasive and surprisingly simple way to keep nitrates out of Minnesota rivers.
It's about as simple as you can get. A five foot deep hole, 25 feet wide and 125 feet long. And those concerned with the water quality of area lakes and rivers hope it could be the answer to farm runoff polluting Minnesota waterways.
Jadrien Irwin, a drainage inspector with Faribault County says, "A bioreactor is a trench in the ground filled with woodchips. The tile water is routed through that trench and the woodchips help remove nitrates."

The wood chips will serve as a set food supply for naturally-occurring bacteria in the soil, and it's those little bugs that will do the cleaning.

The project is actually on hold right now - the warm weather has made digging trenches a messy, even pointless task - so they're going to wait until the soil firms up before they continue.

And if it works, it may be the perfect compromise between the environment and agriculture.
Landowner Neal Mensing says, "Just to run water through woodchips seems simple, but hopefully it does help."

Ditch 62, drains 700 acres in Faribault County, with the runoff ending up in the Blue Earth River. The Blue Earth runs to the Minnesota, then the Mississippi, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

It's small scale. But that doesn't mean it couldn't be bigger.

Irwin says, "It's going to have a small impact - but if it demonstrates that it works, given enough influence, it could take off and we could see results."

-- KEYC News 12.