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Brown County farmer Keith Lendt’s Jan. 15 editorial counterpoint (“Why farmers like me oppose state plan to test Brown County wells”) misrepresented the case for monitoring nitrates in the soil. But it gave poignant expression to the fears of independent family farmers that their days are numbered. We should keep the two issues separate. They are separate problems. Both are important, but I can speak only to environmental monitoring.

We monitor environmental hazards so that they don’t creep up on us with reservoirs of pollution and abatement costs we can no longer afford to fix. It’s true that if we don’t look for environmental hazards, we won’t find them and won’t have an excuse to regulate them. But this is like saying that if we don’t monitor the incidence and locations of communicable-disease outbreaks, then we can save the cost of controls. That’s nonsense. If we look for cases of foodborne infections, we’ll discover outbreaks. In past years, if we aggressively looked for TB cases, we would have an increase in the reported prevalence of the disease. But looking was not meant to justify the existence of public health departments in state and local government. It was to know where the hazards were that needed to be addressed for the public’s safety.

Nitrates used as agricultural fertilizers are not as hazardous as some of the organic pesticides and herbicides on which farmers are forced to rely, but huge amounts of nitrates are used, and they can accumulate (even as road salt has accumulated in many Minnesota lakes). Best to get a baseline on nitrate prevalence in groundwater across the state before too many more years go by. Best to give farmers a heads-up about what’s happening before their costs for adapting get too high.

Paul Farseth, Falcon Heights

MINING

When judging the PolyMet plan, read about this Montana locale

“The Best American Travel Writing: 2016” was a thoughtful Christmas gift from my daughter. Surprisingly, more than a few stories were about places and cultures only an investigative reporter would want to visit. One, “What’s Left Behind” by Kea Krause, features Butte, Mont., a place that has little going for it but notoriety as home of the Berkeley Pit. The half-square-mile, 1,780-foot-deep pit is a “massive hole filled [to 900-foot depth] with battery-acid-strength water … the nation’s largest body of toxic water.” What’s left behind at the depleted Bell-Diamond mine is “one of the greatest American copper-mining calamities of the 20th century,” Krause tells us.

Butte, once the highest-copper-producing city in the world, is now struggling with environmental, economic and social decline. The toxic pit water would eventually escape to the groundwater aquifer if not for the Superfund “solution” to pump and treat infiltrating water “in perpetuity.” Like forever. On a less pessimistic note, an emerging cleanup technology is discussed, but to this engineer it sounds like a stretch despite dramatic laboratory demonstrations. Time will tell.

Butte is not on my travel wish list. But our beautiful Minnesota Northland is, and I hope it will be appealing “in perpetuity.” Anyone for, against or just curious about the PolyMet copper mining plan should read “What’s Left Behind.” It’s on the web at schoolbag.info/science/american/14.html.

Ron Carlson, Lake St. Croix Beach

AMAZON’S HQ2

Minnesota’s out in time

Luckily, Minnesota was not on the Amazon list of 20 contending cities for its second corporate home (Business, Jan. 19). Why do I say that? Because Amazon has already decided where its HQ2 is going. The winning city (along with 19 red herrings) is now being encouraged to improve its incentive package. Eventually the list will fall to 10, then seven, then three before a decision. Again at each step, the winner will be encouraged to sweeten its incentive package, and it will.

Ask yourself this: Why wouldn’t Amazon build its headquarters in the exact perfect spot for itself?

Jack Kohler, Plymouth

SUPER BOWL PREPARATIONS

Guests coming. Place is a mess.

Minnesota is probably the best place for snowplowing and maintenance in winter. We have an opportunity to show thousands of visitors how to do it right and to show off our major roadways. It would seem to me that the two new mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul and state Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle should be teaming up to be sure our roads are clean and top-notch from now until after our Super Bowl visitors go home. There are some really dreadful spots that need attention.

After spending millions on the Hennepin/Lyndale project between Loring Park and the Walker Art Center, past three of the nicest churches in town, we need to clean up the trash along the Lyndale ramp to Interstate 394 all the way to Penn Avenue. Weeds are 3 feet tall growing out of cracks on the roadway. There are tires on either side of the road, and trash and auto parts all over. The plowing in this area is not close to adequate.

Can you three get control of this and not make us look like we don’t care? I’m sure there are other troublesome spots that need attention.

Mark Christopher, Long Lake

BODY IMAGE

Debating the messages sent

The Jan. 14 article “Skin in the game” reports that the author “unfollowed” the Minnesota alternative hip-hop artist Lizzo after Lizzo posted a nude picture of herself on a beach vacation. The author had respected her for being a role model for women of all shapes and sizes, but the “nudity was getting to be too much.” The same article refers glowingly to singer-songwriter Claire De Lune’s “personal quest” to embrace her body by showing skin.

Claire De Lune benefits from white privilege; she benefits from having a societal accepted body shape. Lizzo is a strong, beautiful, big, black woman. She not only fights music standards by simply being who she is, she fights against society every day by baring her skin. She is not selling sex; she’s stoking the revolution. She bares all in defiance of a world that has shamed her for being too fat, being too dark, being too strong, too aggressive, too smart, too this, too that. She shines a torch for every other woman of color who has had her sexuality thrust upon her by white oppression. She shatters the beauty standard and holds up a mirror for society to see that every body is desirable and beautiful.

By knocking Lizzo and lauding Claire De Lune, the author perpetuated the “isms” that say dark is ugly, fat is ugly and naked black women should cover up.

Luci Russell, Minneapolis

• • •

The Jan. 18 letter complaining about improper content in the Jan. 16 “Argyle Sweater” cartoon is a concerning example of how far beyond reason we can stray when confronting serious societal issues. The #MeToo movement shook us from our collective complacency about the very real problem of sexual harassment and physical assaults suffered by too many for too long. In our rush to right these wrongs, we should be vigilant to protect an individual right deemed so important that it was the First Amendment to our Constitution: freedom of speech. Criminal behavior should not be confused with forms of expression that some may find offensive, and a great newspaper is exactly where we should expect to find something disagreeable.

Dan Eittreim, Minneapolis