This year, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is celebrating 50 years of protecting and improving Minnesota’s land, air, and water.
Milestones that led to MPCA’s creation
During the 1800s, garbage, sewage, sawdust, and industrial waste were routinely dumped directly into rivers, impeding boat navigation and creating epidemics.
In 1885, to control diseases spread through poor quality drinking water, the first legislation was passed to prevent pollution of rivers and other sources of drinking water.
In 1945, because too many communities dumped raw sewage into lakes and rivers, the Legislature established the Water Pollution Control Commission to encourage communities to build wastewater treatment plants.
In 1962, Minnesota witnessed two of the most catastrophic oils spills in the history of the state.
In December, sub-zero temperatures caused a pipeline break at Richards Oil in Savage. The ruptured line released a million gallons of oil into the Mississippi River. Shortly thereafter, a storage tank at the Honeymead plant in Mankato burst, releasing more than three million gallons of soy oil onto the ice of the Minnesota River. Oil from both spills slowly traveled downstream.
With the spring thaw, tragic results were evident. Governor Rolvaag activated the National Guard to coordinate cleanup (a project known as Operation Save-a-Duck), and citizens volunteered to rescue and rehabilitate oil-covered ducks. Unfortunately, it was not enough. The survival rate of oil-covered ducks was dismally small. Despite everyone’s best efforts, more than 10,000 waterfowl and countless beaver, muskrats, turtles, and fish died.
In 1967, to address the variety and complexity of environmental problems, the Minnesota Legislature replaced the Water Pollution Control Commission with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and added authority over air pollution and solid waste disposal.
As we celebrate 50 years, the variety and complexity of environmental problems has changed, however our vision remains the same: Clean water, air and land support healthy communities and ecosystems, and a strong economy in Minnesota.
Learn more about the MPCA and what we do.