Minnesota adds 305 streams and lakes to its impaired waters list, including PFAS in Alexandria's Winona Lake
Also detected: Success story for part of Buffalo River
November 9, 2021
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is proposing to add 305 water bodies with 417 new impairments to the state’s impaired waters list, bringing the totals to 2,904 water bodies with 6,168 impairments. The draft 2022 list, released today, includes an additional listing for PFAS in fish tissue in Winona Lake in Alexandria.
“Minnesota’s water is its most valuable resource and everyone expects our lakes and streams to be suitable for swimming and fishing,” said Katrina Kessler, MPCA commissioner. “While Minnesota has made progress in cleaning up waters, too many of our lakes and streams are in still trouble, from high levels of phosphorus that grow algae to PFAS contamination in our waters in Greater Minnesota. We still have more work to do.”
PFAS contamination found in Alexandria, St. Louis County
Perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS), the “forever chemical” used in numerous industrial processes and found in many consumer products, continues to be found in new water bodies throughout Minnesota. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), a PFAS compound, can accumulate to levels of concern in fish, and is transferred to humans when consumed, potentially causing adverse health effects.
The MPCA is proposing to add 15 water bodies as impaired for PFOS in fish tissue and, for the first time, includes water bodies in Greater Minnesota. The proposed listings include Winona Lake in Alexandria in central Minnesota; Wild Rice Lake and Fish Lake Flowage (main and west bays) in St. Louis County in northeast Minnesota; and the St. Croix River in eastern Minnesota, from Taylors Falls Dam through Lake St Croix.
With the addition of these 15 waters, 26 waters in Minnesota would be impaired due to PFOS, including waters already listed, such as the Mississippi River and Bde Maka Ska Lake in the Twin Cities metro area.
Using the Minnesota PFAS Blueprint as its guide, the MPCA and other state agencies continue to identify, manage and clean up these “forever chemicals.” As the agency expands its PFAS monitoring, it expects to find new contamination in waters throughout the state.
In addition to the above impairments, the MPCA has included three new waters – Goodners Lake in Stearns County, Lake Stella in Meeker County, and the Long Prairie River from Spruce Creek to Eagle Creek in Todd and Douglas counties – that exceed the sulfate wild rice standard. These three waters are in addition to the 32 water bodies capable of producing wild rice included in Minnesota’s 2020 Impaired Waters List after feedback from Minnesota’s Tribal Nations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Success stories also detected
Due to actions taken by local partners, the MPCA plans to remove 31 water bodies from the 2022 list. Among them is part of the Buffalo River, where the watershed district led a partnership of several entities to expand buffer strips, restore prairies and implement several other changes to reduce sediment in the river to meet the standard, improving water clarity. They continue to work on additional challenges, including the need to increase dissolved oxygen levels for aquatic life and decrease bacteria levels to better support recreation.
Statewide: Fish and bugs stressors, bacteria and sediment in streams, nutrients in lakes
Statewide, unhealthy conditions for fish and bugs continue to be the most common impairment, with 39 more lakes proposed for fish impairments and 104 streams for fish and/or bugs. These impairments result from poor habitat and other conditions that stress aquatic life. Other proposed listings include high levels of bacteria (30 streams), sediment (25 streams) and nutrients (18 lakes). These impairments will lead to studies and plans to restore the waters to standards.
While the MPCA found new impairments throughout Minnesota, the majority reflect water monitoring data collected in the Buffalo, Chippewa, Sauk, Upper Red and Mississippi River-St. Cloud watersheds in western and central Minnesota; Cedar, Le Sueur, Root, Lower St. Croix, and Mississippi River-Lake Pepin watersheds in southern Minnesota; and Little Fork and St. Louis river watersheds in northeast Minnesota.
Public comments encouraged through Jan. 7, 2022
Minnesota’s draft impaired waters list will be on public notice through Jan. 7, 2022. The MPCA invites comments on whether additional waters should be placed on the list or be removed. For the list, more information about impairments, upcoming public meetings, and how to comment, please visit the MPCA website.
As required by the federal Clean Water Act, Minnesota develops a list of impaired waters every two years. The draft 2022 list is due to April 1 to the U.S. EPA, which will make the final decision on approving the list.
About the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is a state agency committed to ensuring that every Minnesotan has healthy air, sustainable lands, clean water, and a better climate.