In June, the Elko New Market city council approved a plan for a new Niagara bottling facility, located near the headwaters of the Vermillion River, moving the project to its final permitting step: a water appropriations permit review by the Minnesota DNR. This review is currently underway.
In an April article for the nonprofit Freshwater, TCTU Board member Chris O'Brien dug into the science and policy at the heart of this project. A major question is whether the project may contribute to warming of the Vermillion River that would be unsustainable for trout. As Chris states, “In the summertime, sections of the Vermillion River can approach 73 degrees Fahrenheit, the lethal threshold for brown trout, forcing the fish to seek refuge in deep pools or tributary streams.”
In the above article, Carrie Jennings, a field geologist and Freshwater’s Research and Policy Director, recommended specific aquifer testing the DNR could perform during its permit review process.
“What is needed is a special kind of pumping test of adequate duration to determine if there is connectivity between aquifers and to test the hypothesis that deep, sand-and-gravel filled valleys connect the bedrock aquifers to surface-water features,” explained Jennings.
The City of Elko New Market recently provided the DNR with a proposed aquifer pump test work plan, and conservation groups are asking citizens to urge the DNR to ensure this testing is properly designed and conducted. The Sierra Club North Star Chapter recommended the following action:
“Write a polite letter about why you are concerned about the proposed Niagara Bottling plant and the increased pumping of groundwater. Ask the DNR to conduct a rigorous aquifer test to ensure this increased groundwater withdrawal won't draw down nearby private wells or impact surface waters which include the Vermillion River. Remember to write politely and thank the DNR staff for their work.”
If you are concerned about this project and its potential impact on the Vermillion River, please contact the DNR at:
Director, Ecological & Water Resources Division
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
500 Lafayette Road
Saint Paul, MN 55155
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.