Forty percent of Minnesota's lakes, streams and rivers tested over the past decade are polluted – with a further 318 this week added to the state's "Impaired Waters List."
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says there are now more than 4,600 lakes, rivers and streams across the state that are considered "impaired," meaning they fail to meet at least one water quality standard.
And that number continues to climb, with new additions to the 2016 list including 304 streams/rivers and nine lakes that are "too polluted to support adequate fish and other aquatic life."
Furthermore, the MPCA says 83 bodies of water – including two areas of Lake Superior where people swim – contain bacteria "that are hazardous to human health" and 78 that contained high levels of mercury, which is also harmful to humans.
Water bodies recently found to be polluted include:
- Five sections of the Mississippi River – including the Twin Cities section between Crow River and St. Anthony Falls.
- Four sections of the Cloquet River in northeast Minnesota.
- Goldeneye Lake, northeast MN.
- Three sections of the St. Louis River, northeast MN.
- Blue Earth River from Rapidan Dam to Le Sueur River, southeast MN.
- 26 sections of the Watonwan River, southeast MN.
- Bear Lake, central MN.
- Frontenac Lake, northern MN.
You can read the full list here.
How long will it take to make them better?
The MPCA points out that it takes "decades" for waters to become polluted and a "sustained commitment to restore them."
Of the 4,600-plus waters on the impaired list, only two lakes are currently being considered for removal from the list, and only 35 other waters have ever been removed from the list due to restoration.
A big project to restore some of these waters took another step on Tuesday, when Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources released a map of 90,000 miles of state waters that will require vegetative buffers under laws passed last year and ratified this year.
Chemical and sediment runoff from intensive farming is a big cause of water pollution in Minnesota, and the new buffer law has been brought in to ensure as much of it as possible is filtered out before it reaches rivers, streams and lakes.