A York-based natural resources district has adopted new fertilizer rules to protect against further groundwater contamination by nitrates that pose health problems.
YORK, Neb. (AP) - A York-based natural resources district has adopted new fertilizer rules to protect against further groundwater contamination by nitrates that pose health problems.
The Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District board voted 8-4 to adopt a milder version of a previous proposal that would have required districtwide use of nitrogen inhibitors - chemicals that slow the rate at which anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer, is broken down into nitrates. Nitrates can occur naturally, but they also are byproducts of fertilizer and manure.
About 100 people attended an earlier hearing that focused on the inhibitors, and most of those who spoke criticized the proposal, in part because of the potential cost of hundreds of dollars per field.
Rod DeBuhr, manager of the Upper Big Blue water department, said the plan adopted Thursday "became the compromise then, I guess, focusing in on the highest nitrate area."
The new rules require the inhibitors only for fall fertilizer applications and only in one part of York County where nitrate readings exceed the federal standard. Another new rule requires moisture monitors that can show farmers when irrigation is needed. The rule will be applied in areas where contamination isn't as severe and where better irrigation methods can slow the effects of fertilizer being washed below the root zone.
The Upper Big Blue district covers all of York County and parts of Adams, Butler, Fillmore, Hamilton, Polk, Saline and Seward counties. The district's nitrate readings are near, on or more than the federal safety standard of 10 parts per million. A state monitoring program kicks in when nitrate levels reach five parts per million.
Several towns in the district have addressed the nitrate problem. Seward, for example, built a water treatment plant, and York drilled new wells where nitrate readings were lower.
Experts say nitrates pose health hazards when they seep into groundwater supplies. Among the hazards is a condition called "blue baby syndrome," in which an infant's blood can't keep up with the required oxygen delivery to cells.