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Melissa, St. Clair among area lakes to be added to MPCA 'impaired waters' list

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will hold a meeting in Detroit Lakes 1-3 p.m. Oct. 4 to provide a biennial update of the state's polluted lakes and stream segments.

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Several lakes in Becker, Otter Tail and Hubbard counties are on the "impaired waters" list.

In the Detroit Lakes area, lakes Melissa and St. Clair are slated to be added to the list in 2008. Melissa for mercury in fish tissue, affecting fish consumption, and St. Clair for total phosphorus, affecting recreation.

Melissa will be targeted for improvement from 2008 to 2022, according to the MPCA Web site. St. Clair will be targeted for improvement from 2012 to 2015.

West Spirit Lake northeast of Lake Lida in Otter Tail County will be added to the list in 2008 for total phosphorus. It will be targeted for improvement from 2012 to 2015.

West Silent Lake southeast of Lake Lida in Otter Tail County will also be added to the list in 2008 for mercury in fish tissue. It will be targeted for improvement from 2008 to 2022.

In Hubbard County, the 2008 impaired waters list proposes the addition of Upper Twin Lake in the aquatic recreation category due to phosphorus levels.

Phosphorus was also cited on 8th Crow Wing, 1st Crow Wing and Portage, affecting aquatic recreation.

Williams, 10th Crow Wing, Kabekona, Blue and Beauty are on the proposed aquatic consumption list due to mercury in fish tissue.

A lake is deemed impaired for mercury if the state fish consumption advisory for the lake is more restrictive than one meal per week, Molly MacGregor, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

When a lake or river winds up on the impaired list, a study is done to determine the extent of the pollution and identify ways to reduce it, MacGregor said.

Since 90 percent of the mercury deposited in Minnesota lakes was carried there by dust that traveled from other states or nations, much of the responsibility for reducing the problem rests with the federal government.

When a mercury problem is identified in a Minnesota lake, state officials put an emphasis on alerting people to watch their fish consumption. They warn that bigger and older fish contain more mercury than smaller, younger fish.

The risk from mercury is greatest for fetuses and small children, because mercury is a neurotoxin that can inhibit nervous-system development.

When pollution involves phosphorous, the state works to encourage property owners to do things such as establish buffer zones along waterways by planting vegetation with deep roots that capture nutrient-rich runoff before it reaches the water.

The same practice can keep sediment from reaching lakes and rivers, preventing them from becoming too cloudy.

Several other area lakes remain on the "impaired" list:

Little Floyd Lake was added to the list in 1998 for mercury in fish tissue. It should be removed from the list by 2011.

In the Lake Park area, Lee (Talac) Lake was added to the list in 2002 for total phosphorus. It will be targeted for improvement from 2012 to 2015. The lake is located south of Highway 10 near Sand Lake on the Becker-Clay county line.

Elbow Lake north of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge was added to the list in 2006 for mercury in fish tissue. It is targeted to be removed in 2021.

East Battle Lake, located southeast of Ottertail Lake, was added to the list in 2002 for mercury in fish tissue. It is slated to be removed from the list in 2015.

Fish Lake, located west of Ottertail Lake, was added to the list in 2006 for mercury in fish tissue. It is slated to be removed from the list in 2021.

The draft update adds 287 new polluted waters to the existing list, bringing the statewide total to 1,469.

The listed waters, also known as "impaired waters" under the federal Clean Water Act, do not meet water quality standards. The waters contain pollutants at levels above acceptable limits designed to protect public uses, according to the MPCA.

The listed waters need further study to determine how they can be restored to a healthy condition.

Only a fraction of Minnesota's lakes and streams have been assessed for impairments so far. As the agency gathers more data, other waters may be added to the list.

In recent years, public concern about the number of waters on the list has risen, according to the MPCA. To address issues related to impaired waters, lawmakers passed the Clean Water Legacy Act in 2006. In 2007, the governor proposed and the legislature approved additional funding for water assessment, monitoring, clean up and protection activities.

The proposed 2008 impaired waters list, methodology for listing and regional maps are available on the MPCA's Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us/water/tmdl/tmdl-303dlisthtml. The list is formally on public notice from Oct. 8 to Nov. 7.

Questions, comments or requests for additional information may be submitted to Howard Markus at MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155 or by phone at 651-296-7295 or by e-mail at howard.markus @pca. state.mn.us.

Public information meetings will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4 at the Detroit Lakes MPCA office, 714 Lake Ave, and Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the Brainerd MPCA office, 7678 College Rd., Baxter.

Stakeholders are encouraged to attend.

(Dave Olson of The Forum and Jean Ruzicka of the Park Rapids Enterprise contributed to this story)

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