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Cottonwood, Minnesota, Redwood Rivers watersheds on impaired list

WILLMAR — Watersheds of the Cottonwood, Minnesota, Redwood and Blue Earth River are new listings in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)’s recently released impaired waters list for not meeting water quality standards.

New southcentral and southwest Minnesota listing for data collected in 2016-2018 and data reviewed for assessment in 2018-2019 also included watersheds for the Chippewa, Le Sueur and Pomme de Terre rivers. Impairments cited affect aquatic life, recreation and fish consumption.

New listings included:

• 368 steams and 56 lakes that fail to adequately support fish and other aquatic life

• 69 steams and one Lake Superior beach with bacteria levels high enough to potentially sicken recreational users

• 51 lakes and 3 streams with high levels of nutrients (i.e. phosphorus and nitrogen)

• 32 water bodies with excess mercury levels in fish tissue

The Minnesota Department of Health advises people to restrict consumption of fish with higher mercury concentrations.

Most mercury in the atmosphere is a consequence of human activities including burning coal to produce electricity, process taconite, and using mercury in products like fluorescent lights, dental fillings, and some types of thermostats and switches, the MPCA reports.

The 2020 impaired water list includes four water bodies the MPCA proposes to remove from the impaired waters list where restoration work improved water quality.

Lakes will nutrient levels low enough to meet recreational standards include Sleepy Eye Lake, Faille Lake in Todd County, and Waverly Lake in Wright County.

Interested parties are invited to comment on Minnesota’s draft 2020 impaired waters list by Jan. 7. 2020. The MPCA will respond to all comments it receives during the public notice period.

Visit the MPCA’s Watersheds web page to find more monitoring and assessment details, and how to get involved in restoration and protection efforts. Visit pca.state.mn.us.

Public meetings to answer questions on the draft 2020 impaired waters list include 9 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 12 at the Mankato MPCA, 12 Civic Center Plaza, Suite 2165, Mankato; and the Marshall MPCA, 504 Fairgrounds Rd., Suite 200, Marshall, Mn at the same time.

The mercury contamination problem in Minnesota will not be solved until the United States and other countries greatly reduce mercury releases from all sources including mining, product disposal, and coal-fired power plants, according to the MPCA.

Minnesota is a national leader in reducing mercury emissions, and it and other states have urged the federal government to develop a mercury problem solution.

To that end, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has adopted national standards for controlling mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, which will help reduce mercury deposition.

Minnesota has joined other states in urging the federal government to work through the United Nations to negotiate a binding treaty to reduce worldwide mercury pollution.

The MPCA willwork with Minnesota sources to continue to reduce their mercury releases to meet mercury reduction goals and demonstrate that they are feasible.

Eventually, mercury levels in Minnesota water bodies should be low enough that the fish in them can be eaten once a week.

To learn more including the Mercury-Free Zone Program, visit www.pca.state.mn.us/programs/mercury-free/index.html.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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