Minnesota adds 305 streams and lakes to its impaired waters list, including new PFAS waters in Greater Minnesota

Contact: Cathy Malakowsky, 507-206-2608

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) today released its proposed impaired waters list for 2022 that added 305 water bodies with 417 new impairments, bringing the total to 2,904 water bodies with 6,168 impairments. For the first time, the MPCA listed waters in Greater Minnesota with PFAS contamination. Other notable waters on the 2022 list include the Root River in southeastern Minnesota, Vermillion River in Dakota County, Lake Osakis in north central Minnesota, Norway Lake in Kandiyohi County, Lake Phalen in Ramsey County, and the St. Louis River.  

“Minnesota’s water is its most valuable resource and everyone expects our lakes and streams to be suitable for swimming and fishing,” said Katrina Kessler, MPCA commissioner. “While Minnesota has made progress in cleaning up waters, too many of our lakes and streams are in still trouble, from high levels of phosphorus that grow algae to PFAS contamination in our waters in Greater Minnesota. We still have more work to do.” 

Unhealthy conditions for fish and bugs continue to be the most common impairment, with 39 more lakes proposed for fish impairments and 104 streams for fish and/or bugs. These impairments result from poor habitat and other conditions that stress aquatic life. Other proposed listings include high levels of bacteria (30 streams), sediment (25 streams), and nutrients (18 lakes). These impairments will lead to studies and plans to restore the waters to standards. 

PFAS contamination found in Alexandria, St. Louis County

Perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS), the “forever chemical” used in numerous industrial processes and found in many consumer products, continue to be found in new water bodies throughout Minnesota. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), a PFAS compound, can accumulate to levels of concern in fish and is transferred to humans when consumed, potentially causing adverse health effects.

The MPCA also proposed to add 15 water bodies as impaired for PFOS in fish tissue and, for the first time, includes water bodies in Greater Minnesota. The proposed listings include the St. Croix River in eastern Minnesota, from Taylors Falls Dam through Lake St Croix; Winona Lake in Alexandria in central Minnesota; and Wild Rice Lake and Fish Lake Flowage (main and west bays) in St. Louis County in northeast Minnesota. 

With the addition of these 15 waters, 26 waters in Minnesota would be impaired due to PFOS, including waters already listed, such as the Mississippi River and Bde Maka Ska in the Twin Cities metro area. 

Using the Minnesota PFAS Blueprint as its guide, the MPCA and other state agencies continue to identify, manage and clean up these “forever chemicals.” As the agency expands its PFAS monitoring, it expects to find new contamination in waters throughout the state.  

In addition to the above impairments, the MPCA has included three new waters — Goodners Lake in Stearns County, Lake Stella in Meeker County, and the Long Prairie River from Spruce Creek to Eagle Creek in Todd and Douglas counties — that exceed the sulfate wild rice standard. These three waters are in addition to the 32 water bodies capable of producing wild rice included in Minnesota’s 2020 Impaired Waters List after feedback from Minnesota’s tribal nations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Lake George in St. Cloud, Sunfish Lake in Dakota County among success stories

The MPCA plans to remove 31 waters from Minnesota’s 2022 list because of improving water quality. Among those waters: 

  • Sunfish and LeMay lakes in Dakota County, where local partners and residents used special lake treatments and additional stormwater controls to lower phosphorus in Sunfish Lake from 49 to 17 parts per billion (ppb) and in LeMay Lake from 80 to 27 ppb, well below the standards of 40 and 60 ppb respectively.
  • Lake George in St. Cloud, where the city took several actions, including additional filtering of stormwater, to decrease phosphorus levels from 45 to 18 ppb, well below the standard of 40 ppb, all within a decade. 

Public comments encouraged through Jan. 7, 2022 

Minnesota’s draft impaired waters list will be on public notice through Jan. 7, 2022. The MPCA invites Minnesotans to submit comments on whether additional waters should be placed on the list or be removed. For the list, more information about impairments, upcoming public meetings, and how to comment, please visit the MPCA website

As required by the federal Clean Water Act, Minnesota develops a list of impaired waters every two years. The draft 2022 list is due on April 1, 2022, to the U.S. EPA, which will make the final decision on approving the list.