Ecology approves money for nitrate contamination

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YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) -- The Washington Department of Ecology has approved about $300,000 to help Yakima County develop a groundwater management program to address nitrate contamination.

State and federal officials have been investigating nitrate contamination in the Yakima Valley since the Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper uncovered the problem in a series of stories in October 2008. Potential causes include application of nitrogen-rich fertilizers, manure and leaking septic systems.

The Ecology Department announced Monday that Director Ted Sturdevant had issued an order authorizing the county to develop the program. He also announced the startup funding in a letter to county commissioners.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year found 21 percent of 337 wells sampled for nitrates in the lower Yakima Valley were at levels greater than federal drinking standards.