New report finds dangerous levels of arsenic across Minnesota wells

Minnesotans are at risk of consuming dangerous levels of arsenic in their food and water, according to weekend report released by the Center for Public Integrity.

Whether there's such a thing as a safe level of arsenic is debatable, though even small amounts of the toxin have been linked to lower IQ scores in children and instances of cancer in adults. At home, researchers found that the concentration of arsenic in an alarming number of groundwater wells exceeded 10 parts per billion -- the ceiling set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Dozens tested positive for more than 50 parts per billion.

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More depressing still, the EPA has known since at least 2008 that arsenic is far more toxic than it officially states. But the agency has been paralyzed by pesticide lobbyists and lawmakers from creating stricter drinking water standards.

The roadblock: a single paragraph inserted into a committee report by a member of Congress, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found. The paragraph essentially ordered the EPA to halt its evaluation of arsenic and hand over its work to the National Academy of Sciences.

The congressman, Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, said he was concerned that small communities couldn't meet tougher drinking water standards and questioned the EPA's ability to do science. But a lobbyist for two pesticide companies acknowledged to CPI that he was among those who asked for the delay. As a direct result of the delay, a weed killer the EPA was going to ban at the end of 2013 remains on the market.

Judge the report for yourself. In documenting the problem, reporters looked at arsenic readings collected by the United States Geological Survey. Minnesota was among the two states that offered up its own data on private wells.

We'll stick to whiskey, thank you. Hold the ice.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse

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