While news stories highlighting nitrate and other anthropogenic drinking-water contaminants are important (“Study: 1 in 8 drink nitrate-tainted water,” Jan. 14), it is disheartening to know that geologic-sourced contaminants — toxic contaminants that most people have never heard of — affect more household drinking-water wells. But these contaminants get no press. Why? Because there is no “bad guy”?

Example: arsenic, an element found in many geologic materials. Here in Minnesota, ordinary geochemical conditions can release arsenic from solid aquifer material into the groundwater tapped by drinking-water wells. Arsenic exposure can cause cancer and many other health problems.

Arsenic contamination in domestic drinking water wells is common in Minnesota, across the Midwest and across the country. Detectable arsenic is present in almost half of sampled domestic wells, which translates to affecting an estimated half a million Minnesotans. Arsenic exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standard occurs in more than 11% of sampled wells, serving about 150,000 of our citizens. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that homeowners consider treating well water that has detectable arsenic.

There is a misconception that nothing can be done to avoid arsenic in well water. We have made progress in our understanding of why it’s there. With continuing effort and understanding, we will make the ultimate connection: how to avoid it.

For now, can we give arsenic (and manganese and radionuclides) a little ink? Homeowners: Test your domestic wells. Tell your friends, relatives and neighbors to test, too. Armed with knowledge, make a choice about treatment. Knowledge is powerful — and healthy.

Melinda Erickson, Roseville

The writer is a scientist who teaches at the University of Minnesota.


Not all disability care is permanent

I appreciate the Star Tribune’s work to bring attention to problems faced by people with disabilities. As the parent of an adult with disabilities, I read with interest — and some frustration — the Dec. 29 story “Minnesota’s arbitrary aid to the disabled.”

I have a question. For parents who care at home for an adult son or daughter with disabilities: What happens to the person when the parents die? Who cares for them then?

I ask sincerely, as my husband and I struggle with plans for our own adult son’s future when we’re no longer here to care for him.

One more question: Does the Star Tribune consider group homes always to be a bad option? It seems so. The writer editorializes about “consigning thousands to isolating group homes rather than independent lives in the community,” implying that group homes are the opposite of living “in the community.” In Northfield, we have group homes in neighborhoods throughout town. Group homes can be a way to live in community.

Alex Bartolic, retired disability services director for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, says in her Jan. 12 commentary (“ ‘Chaotic Care’ doesn’t tell whole story of services for the disabled”) that the “Chaotic Care” stories “paint an incomplete picture of our progress” at the department. And, I would add, an incomplete picture of the full spectrum of Minnesotans with disabilities, especially developmental disabilities. Bartolic makes a crucial point: “A variety of options recognizes that individual people have different needs and desires.”

Some of us need group homes. And more will need them when us loving, attentive, full-time caregiver parents die.

Let’s not dismantle the options in the meantime.

Betsy Spethmann, Dundas, Minn.


Our ‘griping’ is for a good reason

Early in the Southwest light-rail siting process, when it was determined the freight line wouldn’t move, the Metropolitan Council had a chance to change the route. It stuck with the Kenilworth corridor despite the costs of loss of green space, probable damage to the lakes and logic (“Stop griping — we need this line,” Jan. 16).

We think light rail is a great benefit to our city, and we hope for the best, but we “gripe” because the line’s route is in the wrong place due solely to bureaucratic intransigence.

Steve Mayer, Minneapolis


When do people become one of us?

As I read the Jan. 16 letter to the editor “Saying ‘no’ is not xenophobic,” I reached one simple conclusion. When the writer suggested that government at all levels should “be about meeting needs of Minnesotans, not the world,” I realized that it all comes down to who we define as Minnesotans.

I define a Minnesotan as anyone who chooses to live here, thereby contributing to the strength of our economy, the richness of our culture and the engagement of our citizenry. As employers struggle to fill jobs and our state faces the prospect of losing a congressional seat, we should all be grateful for those who seek to join us as we want to build and maintain a strong and vibrant Minnesota. Let us not forget the wise words of former Sen. Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Cyndy Crist, St. Paul


Thanks for the opportunity to give up more data, but no thanks

Thanks for the invitation (“The move to replace Trump starts Friday. Join us,” Opinion Exchange, Jan. 16), but that’s a party I won’t go to.

I have lived in Minnesota for 40 years and have rarely missed any chance to vote in that time. However, under the new rules for the presidential primary, I’ll give it a miss.

Giving the politicians access to more personal data is the wrong move.

Don Bixler, Brooklyn Park

• • •

I just read the editorial about Minnesota’s requirements for voting in its primary elections (“In state’s primary, privacy will lose,” Jan. 15). I am deeply disturbed that Minnesota has moved in this direction and has not established clear restrictions on how the information about party affiliations can be used.

I am a Minnesota native. I’ve lived in New York for the past 19 years and will be moving back to my home state this summer. When I registered to vote in New York, I was upset that I was required to disclose my party affiliation — and that was without any “loyalty oath”! I hope the Minnesota Legislature will re-examine and amend this law. I believe residents should be able to vote in a primary for whichever party they choose at that time, since party politics are dynamic and change over time.

Jill Fisher, Woodstock, N.Y.

• • •

The editorial about voters declaring party affiliation and reader comments that follow indicate our serious concerns about the law change.

I hope the Star Tribune will do a background story on how our Legislature passed the law that made this possible — the people behind the law change, the process that followed, which legislators voted for it, etc.

I think Minnesotans deserve to know the story!

Lois Willand, Minneapolis



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