How Bloomington-Normal is keeping nitrogen out of the water

Nestled in the county that in 2020 produced the most corn and the most soybeans in the nation and is host to the state's primary farm organization, Bloomington-Normal is closely identified with agriculture.

The industry is ubiquitous here. It manifests as grain elevators and crush plant facilities dotting skylines, as manufacturers of field implements, as farmers who moonlight as elected officials.

It also takes shape in local water sources as excess nutrients.

Runoff from nitrogen and phosphorus-based fertilizers used on local farm fields seep into local waterways, including Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake, and eventually make their way down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico.

The 1,000-mile journey ends in a large hypoxic zone, representing a great irony of industrial agriculture — the nutrients so vital for the growth of crop plants also contribute to a void of aquatic life.

While the latter problem isn't present in area water sources, that does not mean it isn't a concern of those who maintain them. Also front of mind for local water keepers is the presence of nitrates in Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake.

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