MPCA extends comment period for draft 2016 impaired waters list

Contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608

Rochester, Minn. — At the request of stakeholders, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is extending the public comment period for the draft 2016 impaired waters list by 30 days.  The MPCA released the list on July 13, followed by a series of public meetings and a public comment period from Aug. 1-31. The extension means the agency will now accept written comments through Sept. 30, 2016.

The list represents an assessment of how well lakes and streams support fishing, swimming and other beneficial uses. Water bodies that fail to meet standards are considered “impaired.” This assessment is mandated by federal law and requires a cleanup study for each impaired water body.

New to the list this year:

  • 304 stream sections and 9 lakes that fail to support the number and quality of aquatic life — fish and bugs — that they should support according to research.
  • 41 sections of streams — most in southern Minnesota — that fail to meet new standards designed to prevent algae detrimental to aquatic life and recreation like fish and swimming. The MPCA assessed 600-plus rivers and found that 340 stream sections do meet the standard, 41 do not, and the rest need more data for a determination. Nutrient standards have been in place for lakes since 2008, and standards for rivers went into effect in 2014.  The agency may list more rivers as impaired by nutrients in future years as it further analyzes their potential to grow algae.
  • 83 water bodies, including 2 areas of Lake Superior with beaches, with bacteria levels too high to meet standards. Bacteria can make water unsuitable for swimming and other recreation. Sources of bacteria include manure runoff, livestock in streams, and failing sewer systems.
  • 78 water bodies with mercury levels in fish tissue or in the water that are too high to meet standards. Mercury can be toxic to humans and that’s why the state of Minnesota issues fish consumption advisories. The largest sources of mercury in Minnesota’s environment come from air emissions like coal burning and taconite.  About 90 percent of the mercury deposited on Minnesota comes from other states and countries.

In all, the number of impaired Minnesota waters on the draft 2016 list totals 4,603, with 582 new listings.

Comments, which must be in writing, should be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 to Miranda Nichols, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd N, St. Paul, MN 55155 (must provide a return address) or miranda.nichols@state.mn.us. After the public comment period, the agency may make changes based on comments and then submit the list, along with comments received and agency responses, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

For details, visit the MPCA's Impaired Waters List webpage.