By Yanqi Xu
Flatwater Free Press 

No nitrate police: State, local regulators can't, or won't, stop drinking water from getting worse


November 24, 2022

Ryan Soderlin | for Flatwater Free Press

Testing - Water resources technicians Josh Schnitzler, left, and Connor Baldwin, right, and assistant general manager Brian Bruckner, center, who all work for the Lower Elkhorn Resources District in Norfolk, test water in a monitoring well near the north fork of the Elkhorn River. These wells, located roughly 10 miles northwest of Elkhorn, are used to monitor ground water for nitrates and other substances like solids and sulfates.

The farmer was growing impatient.

He and dozens of other central Nebraska farmers had gathered for mandatory training in Columbus a few weeks before last Christmas. In response to high nitrate levels, the Lower Loup Natural Resources District had designated a "Phase 3 area." That led to new requirements – like this training to help farmers manage their nitrogen fertilizer use.

The farmer didn't like this. He told NRD leaders he had been drinking water containing nitrate at 40 parts per million – quadruple the safe drinking water standard – all his adult life. He was fine, he told them...

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