Community deserves credit for a cleaner river
Just ten years ago, the Credit River, located in the south Twin Cities metro area, was so polluted with muddy sediment that it was placed on Minnesota’s list of impaired waters. Today, thanks to the efforts of neighbors and organizations along the river, the river is clear and clean. The Credit River is one of Minnesota's best examples of environmental progress resulting from community action.
The Credit River was placed on the state’s impaired waters list because of a condition called turbidity. Turbidity is a measure of water clarity—essentially, how clean or dirty the water is. High turbidity interferes with the ability of sight-feeding organisms to find food, cause fish gills to function less efficiently, and blanket feeding and spawning areas with a layer of silt.
According to Brooke Asleson of the MPCA, it may have taken as much as 50 years for the water in the Credit River to reach its worst levels of impairment. Pollutants like sediment trickle into the river from hundreds or thousands of small sources, many of which are not subject to regulation.
The real success of the Credit River story is that residents, local governments, businesses, and watershed organizations pitched in to do their part in protecting the river. Employees from Target installed a rain garden to capture runoff from a parking lot near a public park. Residents planted vegetation along shorelines to prevent erosion along the stream banks. Local programs were implemented to reduce soil erosion during construction projects.
As a result of these efforts, the Credit River was removed from the 2012 list of impaired waters. "Reversing pollution to the point that the river could be delisted in just 10 years is a truly impressive accomplishment," says Asleson.
Projects like this one are the new frontier in environmental protection. It is now rare to see pollution coming from single sources like a drain pipe that can be easily identified and redirected. Today, Minnesota’s waters are threatened by small pollution sources spread out across a watershed—an overfertilized lawn here, a bare slope there, or a parking lot with inadequate stormwater management.
Likewise, the greatest opportunity to improve Minnesota waters is by eliminating these pollution sources one at a time. Though no one group may notice distinct results from their efforts, the Credit River is a shining example of how change really is possible when individuals, community groups, and local water protection groups to undertake collective efforts to improve their watershed.