Naively, I kind of thought these days were behind us…
Paul Wotzka was fired by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) on May 8. He is now suing saying that this is in retaliation for his request to testify at a legislative hearing, by request of a bill author, about the high levels of Atrazine polluting Minnesota’s water. Sadly, this sounds all too familiar, combining the sad stories of the MPCA firing Fardin Oliaei for her research into 3M chemicals tainting Minnesota’s waters and the PCA’s/Department of Ag’s uninviting Dr. Tyrone Hayes from the PCA’s annual meeting a couple of year’s ago.
Atrazine is an herbicide – banned in the European Union – used primary on corn fields. Dr. Hayes has dramatically raised the profile of the dangers of Atrazine with his research that demonstrates how the chemical affects the reproductive organs in frogs (he uses the term “chemical castration” quite a bit). According to the Pioneer Press article, Atrazine is the most commonly found herbicide in our state’s water.
The bill Mr. Wotzka was asked to testify in reference to would have instructed the MN Department of Health to set better standards for exposure to Atrazine in our water. The bill itself did not get far, but provisions were included in the Health and Human Services finance bill (hf 1078, line 444.14) related to creating health-based water level standards for “the ten most commonly detected contaminants” by March 1, 2009.
For 16 years Mr. Wotzka worked for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, where he tested water quality. He moved over to the PCA last October. He was suspended on March 29, one week after he requested permission to testify (which was denied). His dismissal letter cites destroyed data and forwarding his mail from Ag to MPCA as the justification.
Brian wrote a post on this blog last April referencing Mr. Wotzka’s findings of Atrazine as high as 30 parts per billion in the Whitewater River (the EPA’s drinking water limit is 3 parts per billion). This came from Department of Natural Resource’s Conservation Volunteer. The Pi Press article implies that he was really ready to let loose on the dangers of Atrazine and the need for health standards – that is until he was suspended a week after requesting the opportunity and his 17 years of working for the state came to an abrupt end.
Update: Brian sat down to talk with Mr. Wotzka since this was originally posted. See his post for details.