Pioneer-Sarah Creek watershed polluted by phosphorus, E. coli bacteria

Contact: Mary Connor, 651-757-2629

Lakes in the Pioneer-Sarah Creek Watershed are contaminated by phosphorus, and several of the watershed’s streams have high levels of E. coli bacteria, according to new reports by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The pollution is severe enough to be harmful to aquatic insects and fish, inhibit recreational activities, and pose health risks to humans.

Phosphorus in the lakes comes from manure, cropland runoff, internal loading (agitation of phosphorus-laden lake sediments), and urban and rural runoff. E. coli in the streams is from livestock, wildlife, and human waste. Bacteria can reach water bodies from stormwater systems, manure-covered fields, malfunctioning septic systems, or feedlots.

The Pioneer-Sarah Creek Watershed, located in northwestern Hennepin County, includes the communities of Greenfield, Independence, Loretto, Maple Plain, Medina, and Minnetrista. The watershed’s diverse landscape is dominated by undeveloped and agricultural land uses.

The MPCA, the Pioneer-Sarah Creek Watershed Management Commission, and local partners are recommending a number of actions to restore and protect water bodies in the Pioneer-Sarah Creek Watershed. Actions include increasing buffers, reducing internal loading in lakes, improving manure and pasture management practices, improving urban stormwater management, and implementing livestock and agricultural best management practices.

The MPCA’s two reports on the watershed include:

  • The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which establishes the amount of each pollutant that a water body can receive without exceeding water quality standards, and allocates reductions to different sources of pollutants.
  • The Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS), which identifies strategies for restoring and protecting water quality in the watershed.

The agency is seeking comments from the public on both reports.

The draft reports are available on the MPCA’s Pioneer-Sarah Creek webpage. Submit comments in writing to Rachel Olmanson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, Minnesota 55155-4194, or, by 4:30 p.m. on May 31, 2017. Rachel is available to answer questions at 651-757-2473. Comments must indicate to which report they pertain and the action you wish the MPCA to take, including sections of the report that you believe should be changed, and reasons supporting your position.

The MPCA website has more information on the agency’s approach to protecting and improving water quality and TMDLs and WRAPS.