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October 08 2013 08:29

MPCA water quality report for Mississippi River-Twin Cities shows need for improvement

Contact: Cori Rude-Young, 651-757-2680

St. Paul, Minn. -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has released a water quality monitoring and assessment report for the Mississippi River-Twin Cities Watershed that shows poor water quality throughout much of the watershed. Due to the density of industry, housing and roads, lakes and streams in the watershed are showing signs of stress, such as high levels of bacteria and nutrients, eroding stream banks, and loss of sensitive aquatic species.

The Mississippi River-Twin Cities Watershed encompasses a large portion of the metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The watershed is home to more than 1.8 million people across 99 cities, more than 500 species of wildlife and fish, and numerous kinds of aquatic invertebrates.

Highlights of the report:

  • Based on water clarity and levels of algae present, 84 lakes assessed support aquatic recreation, such as swimming and boating, while 87 assessed do not.
  • Fifty-one lakes were found to have fish with high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and/or PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate). Because of this, fish consumption advisories are recommended for lakes across the watershed.
  • Eight previously impaired lakes have been restored, and are considered healthy.
  • Based on monitoring the amounts and types of fish and bugs found in streams, two streams assessed support aquatic life, while 21 assessed do not.
  • Due to high levels of bacteria, only one stream assessed supports aquatic recreation, while 17 assessed do not.

According to Glenn Skuta, MPCA water monitoring manager, work is already underway to address these issues. “State agencies, watershed management organizations, cities, and local citizens have been working to address these problems to improve and protect the beauty and recreational enjoyment of our lakes and streams in the watershed,” Skuta said. “Dozens of targeted cleanup plans have been completed or are in development to reduce pollution.”

Skuta added that citizens can also help reduce water pollution by cleaning up pet waste, making sure septic systems are up to date, reducing the use of deicers, planting rain gardens or using rain barrels, minimizing application of lawn fertilizers, and cleaning up grass clippings and leaves from paved areas.

In 2010 the MPCA undertook an intensive monitoring effort of the watershed’s surface waters in collaboration with local partners. Nearly 50 stream stations were sampled for fish and aquatic bugs. In 2012, a holistic approach was taken to assess these and other data for a large number of the watershed’s creeks and larger lakes to see whether they are supporting aquatic life, recreation and fish consumption. During this process, 180 lakes and 46 stream reaches were able to be assessed, but not all water bodies monitored were assessed due to insufficient data and modified channel condition.

To view the monitoring and assessment report, visit the MPCA’s Mississippi River-Twin Cities Watershed webpage. This report is one of about 80 being developed over the next decade by the MPCA for all of Minnesota’s major watersheds.

With dollars provided by the Clean Water Fund (from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment), the MPCA conducts and oversees a variety of surface water monitoring activities that support its mission of helping Minnesotans protect the environment. To be successful in preventing and addressing problems, accurate information is needed about the status of Minnesota’s waters, potential and actual threats, options for addressing the threats, and how effective management actions have been. The MPCA’s monitoring efforts are focused on providing that critical information.

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