MPCA Releases Latest Data on MN's Impaired Waterways

By KBJR News 1

January 19, 2012 Updated Jan 19, 2012 at 7:25 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - When the 2008 Clean Water Act was passed—providing funding for various organizations to conduct water contamination research—the Minnesota Pollution Patrol Agency got to work.

Now the MPCA has released a list of their findings from 2009 to 2011 to the Environmental Protection Agency—and opened their doors to the public to share their discoveries.

"We hope to work with local folks to correct some of these problems," said Mike Kennedy, who is the Project Manager of the St. Louis River Watershed research.

According to Kennedy, there are roughly 45 impaired water bodies within the watershed alone: "About half of them are going to be impaired for biology—for the fish and the bugs that live in the streams—and about half of them are going to be impaired for bacteria—mostly E. Coli—that effects recreational use of the water."

Kennedy says that the studies conducted within the past 2 years have shed light on the causation of the contamination. The question at hand now: why?

"Some of it could be habitat, which we would then work with our partners in the DNR to address it. Some of it could be sediment issues, where we would work with local people in the watershed to control runoff on their private property," said Kennedy.

According to MPCA research scientist Jesse Anderson, the multitude of factors that go into determining a waterway's level of contamination—from man–made issues, like mercury and phosphorus, to biological factors, like invasive species—extend any work done into a multi–year process: about 10 years.

"We're like a water quality detective," said Anderson, "trying to figure out what's wrong, and what we can do to clean things up: what's the water quality like, are there enough fish there, is it safe to swim, are the fish safe to eat, and things of that nature."

...which can leave many people frustrated—like Linda Ross–Sellner—who says the small number of waterways that have been successfully cleaned up since research began—about 19—is not enough.

"The number of them—almost 4,000 plans that have been developed—with so little resolution and actual correction of the problem is unacceptable to me. I'm frustrated."

...leaving one thing certain: it will be a long time before Minnesota's waters are truly clean.

According to the MPCA, a 30–day public comment period on Minnesota's impaired water list will be open from January 23rd to February 27th on their website.