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Ground Water May Contain Decades Old Contamination
Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two plant nutrients in sewage and fertilizer that foul the bay, feeding its algae blooms and "dead zones." Both are washed off the land into streams whenever it rains, but nitrogen dissolves in water, so it also soaks down into the soil, ultimately reaching the water table.

Using a computer model to simulate ground-water flows, USGS scientists found that when nitrogen from fertilized farm fields soaks into the ground, it takes 20 to 40 years on average for the nutrient-laden water to make its way underground into streams and rivers.

 
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Overuse of Farm Fertilizer Drives Minnesota’s First Effort to Regulate It - Farmers in Minnesota are using 10 to 15 percent more fertilizer than they need to maximize crop yields, one reason why drinking water across the state is increasingly contaminated with nitrogen, state agricultural officials say.


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